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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Chicken Tikka Masala

I was first introduced to Indian food when the first Indian restaurant, Bombay House, opened in my town a couple of decades ago. I was immediately hooked.

I've sampled Indian food all over the US, in the Middle East and Europe (and even in India). On my first date with my husband, we discovered a mutual love for Indian food, and we had dinner at the Bombay House the night we became officially engaged.

My cravings for Indian food are strong enough that learning how to cook it seemed like the practical thing to do. After a little experimentation, I've come up with several receipes that are good imitations of what our favorite Indian restaurants serve. Although the rest of the family tends to prefer Tandoori Chicken (which we cook on the barbecue grill since we haven't yet managed to install a tandoori oven in our back yard), my favorite is probably Chicken Tikka Masala. I'll post on Tandoori Chicken another day.

First, you make the marinade for the chicken. We usually use about 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, because they tend to taste less dry than breasts. But breasts also work. Cut them into bite-sized pieces, and then marinate in a gallon-sized ziploc bag

I usually start the marinade about four hours before dinner time.

Prepare the other ingredients before you start cooking. Just a note about garam masala, wich is included both in the marinade and in the sauce. Garam masala is a general seasoning that is included in many Indian dishes. Think Italian seasoning for Indian food. It's possible to make your own, but it's easier just to buy a bottle. It's quite expensive at my neighborhood supermarket, but is about 1/3 as much at WalMart.

Cook the chicken until it's cooked through but not brown.

Take it out of the skillet and cook the other sauce ingredients. Cook the sauce ingredients in the same pan. Add the chicken back in for the last ten minutes. Here's what the finished product looks like, accompanied with our own version of naan (Indian flat bread) and basmati rice.

Chicken Tikka Masala

Marinade and meat
2 cups plain, non-fat yogurt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 teaspons garam masala
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tespoon ground ginger
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 large green pepper, very thinly sliced
1 small onion, thinly sliced
dash cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons garam masala
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
2 8-oz. cans tomato sauce
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

In large bowl, combine yogurt, lemon juice, garam masala, cayenne, black pepper, ginger and salt. Pour over chicken pieces in a gallon zip loc bag and refrigerate for one to four hours.

Cook chicken pieces in small amount of oil in a large, hevy skillet, turning to cook on all sides. Remove when cooked through (but not brown). Remove chicken from the skillet, set aside.

Melt butter in skillet over medium heat. Saute garlic, pepper and onion for one minute. Season with garam masala, cayenne, paprika and salt. Stir in tomato sauce and cream. Simmer on low heat until sauce thickens, about 20 minutes. Add chicken and simmer for ten minutes. Transfer to a serving platter and garnish with fresh cilantro.

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