Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka MasalaEatin’ like a Grown Up
We’ve reached a major milestone in my household! Well, I think it’s major. To be clear, I am not talking about the real major milestones like getting your driver’s license, or being accepted into college, or even the elusive doing the things I ask you to do, when I ask you to do them, not when I am foaming-at-the-mouth-mad milestones. No, the milestone I am talking about is the spicy hot food one.

My husband and I like our food spicy. For the longest time, I have had to dial it back when cooking, because I wanted my kids to actually eat. My kids are pretty adventurous when it comes to food as far as ingredients and cuisine go. But if I made it too spicy hot they would start reaching for the fall-back banana. Lately, it’s as if the clouds have parted and the sun is shining down in my kitchen…because my kids are asking for their food to be more spicy. Yee Haw!! Bring on the harissa and chilies!

We eat Mexican food it seems like, daily. So, when I noticed a lot more salsa use I was intrigued. The other night I made blackened salmon with a fire breathing spice rub, and they kids all loved it. I started getting excited. When we went for Indian food last week, and my son said he wanted to swim in a vat of the sauce armed with a straw, I knew we had turned a corner.

Their Indian dish of choice is Chicken Tikka Masala, which ranges from medium to spicy. The good news is that you can find it on basically every Indian restaurant menu. So, you have the opportunity to taste and compare. Frankly, I’m just looking forward to a little more spice and dinner choices in our lives…

Chicken Tikka Masala
Adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine
Yields 6 Servings

3 tablespoons lemon juice
6 garlic cloves, finely grated
4 teaspoons finely grated peeled ginger
4 teaspoons ground turmeric
2 teaspoons garam masala
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1-1/2 cups whole-milk yogurt (not Greek)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, halved lengthwise
3 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter) or vegetable oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup tomato paste
6 cardamom pods, crushed
2 dried chiles de árbol or 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro plus sprigs for garnish
Steamed basmati rice (for serving)t

Put the chicken in a bowl, and rub in 1-1/4 teaspoon salt and the lemon juice. Prod the chicken pieces lightly with the tip of a knife and rub the seasoning in again. And set it aside for 20 minutes.

In a small bowl, make a spice mixture from the garlic, ginger, turmeric, garam masala, ground coriander, and cumin.

Add half the spice mixture and yogurt to the chicken. Mix well, cover, and refrigerate for 6-8 hours (though longer will not hurt).

Put a large heavy pot over medium heat, and add the ghee. Add the onion, tomato paste, cardamom, and chiles. Cook, stirring often, until tomato paste has darkened and onion is soft. (about 5 minutes) Add the remaining half of the spice mixture and cook, stirring often, until the bottom of the pot begins to brown. (about 4 minutes)

Add the tomatoes with juices, crushing them with your hands as you add them. Bring the pot to a boil, reduce the heat.  And, simmer, stirring often and scraping up browned bits from bottom of the pot, until sauce thickens. (about 8 to 10 minutes)

Add the cream and chopped cilantro. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens. (about 30-40 minutes)

Meanwhile, preheat the broiler. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, and set a wire rack inside the sheet. Arrange the chicken on a rack in a single layer. Broil until the chicken starts to blacken in spots—it will not be cooked through. (about 10 minutes)

Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces, and add it to the sauce. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through (about 8-10 minutes.)

Serve with rice and cilantro to garnish.

Do Ahead
The chicken dish can be made 2 days ahead, and then covered and chilled. Reheat before serving.

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