Living in New York City introduced me to lots of new things. The subway. Standing thisclose to a complete stranger on the subway and being totally OK with it. Pearl River Mart. Gypsy cabs. Online grocery shopping. And Indian food.
Ok, so that last one wasn't so much about the city as it was about my roommate, Shaun. I've known Shaun for what feels like my whole life (but is really more like 12 years, so half my life), so when I decided to move to New York, he
Clearly this turned out to be the best decision ever since I was an awesome roommate and he had mad photography skills. Plus, since he'd been living in the city for almost a year, he'd established a solid take-out routine which I fell right into with him. It didn't matter if I'd already started making dinner, or sometimes, even if I'd already eaten, if he was ordering take-out, I was down. And one of his favorite places to order from was an Indian restaurant. At first, I was skeptical. I'm not really into curry (insert apology to the angry racial profiling comment here), and the very limited access I'd had to Indian food in the past hadn't really left me craving it. But nevertheless, I'd pick something on the menu, Shaun would pick his usual, and when the food came I'd always want to trade.
Before long, Shaun and I were calling for two orders of his usual with extra garlic naan. And when I moved back to Virginia it was one of the first things I missed about the city (Shaun, of course being THE first). Unfortunately, Richmond isn't really a hotbed of eclectic dining choices, so I'd been scanning the frozen food section at Trader Joe's for months trying out different Indian options, looking for that familiar taste I'd been missing (their garlic naan is actually pretty decent). Finally, I realized if I wanted the original, I was going to have to do the leg work myself and make it.
I'm telling you, one bite in and I was right back in that tiny apartment with Shaun, sitting on our tiny couch eating out of plastic containers set on our short little coffee table, watching Real Housewives of where ever. It had all the familiar flavors I was looking for and used very few ingredients I didn't already have in the house. If you're not all that familiar with Indian food, this is a good place to start.
Chicken Tikka Masala
Yield: 2-3 Servings
For the chicken:
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 tsp ground cumin, divided
1 tsp ground coriander, divided
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp kosher salt
6 oz plain greek yogurt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
For the sauce:
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 small jalepeno, seeds and ribs removed, minced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp garam masala
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 14 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 tsp granulated sugar
Salt to taste
1/4 cup whole milk or heavy cream
Fresh cilantro (optional)
1. First prep the chicken. In a small bowl combine 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp coriander, the cayenne pepper, and salt. Rub the spice mixture into the chicken, cover, and refrigerate for at least an hour.
2. In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp coriander, the garlic, and ginger. Mix well, cover and refrigerate until ready to cook.
3. When ready to cook, preheat your broiler (if using a gas stove, please see the note below!) and position an oven rack about 6'' below it. Line a sheet pan with foil and grease well with vegetable oil or cooking spray and set aside.
4. Start the sauce. In a large pot set over medium heat, melt the butter with the oil. Add onion and saute for 10 minutes, stirring often, until golden brown. Lower heat if onions are browning too quickly. Add garlic, ginger, jalepeno and spices. Stir and allow the mixture to cook another 2-3 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, sugar, and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low, cover, and simmer while you cook the chicken.
5. Dip each chicken piece into the yogurt marinade, leaving both sides well coated (don't squeeze off the excess) and place on prepared baking sheet. Broil chicken until it is lightly charred in spots, about 9 minutes. Flip the pieces over and broil the other side until it is also browned, and the chicken is cooked through, another 3-4 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to rest, covered with foil for at least 5 minutes.
5. Slice the cooked chicken into strips and stir into the sauce with the milk. Simmer for another 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. Spoon chicken and sauce over white or brown rice, garnish with cilantro, and serve.
- It's pretty rare that I have whole milk or heavy cream in my fridge, so in a pinch, feel free to substitute anything else that's a little creamy- sour cream, coconut milk, buttermilk, or just leave it out all together.
- Garam masala is a spice blend that can be a little spicy. If it's not something you've used before, add just a little, taste the sauce, and add more according to taste.
- If using a gas stove, you may be unable to leave enough space between your broiler and baking sheet. If this is the case, broil your chicken until it is lightly charred in some spots (flip it if you'd like), but then finish it in a 350 degree oven until it is fully cooked (approx 10-15 more minutes depending on the thickness of your chicken pieces).