Chicken Tikka Masala

Before I made my way to college, Indian was a forbidden spicy food that I was unfamiliar with. My lovely parents certainly appreciate fine foods, but they cannot stand even the tiniest number of Scoville units. They seem to associate Indian food, and many other cuisines, with spice. Indian cuisine is full of the most wonderful spices but it does not have to burn your mouth. I never really ate anything spicy growing up and now I cannot get enough of foreign spicy food! This Chicken Tikka Masala has a creamy and rich sauce that is packed with bright flavors. Indian food can seem intimidating but the hardest part is assembling the ingredients. I have simplified this by using all ground spices. Everything in this recipe is easily found in a regular grocery store. I buy all of my spices from World Market; the quality is great and the price is unbeatable.

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The flavor you get from cooking the chicken this way is awesome and so authentic. This recipe is not difficult but it does create a big mess. There are a lot of steps and it may be more of a weekend adventure. Chicken Tikka Masala freezes beautifully, thaw and add freshly steamed rice for a super quick freezer meal. This is a more indulgent meal at 600 calories per serving, but it is worth every last calorie. Impress friends at your next dinner party, they will think you are trying to trick them with takeout from an Indian restaurant. You will want to drink a sweeter wine to complement the spices here. I would serve Hidden Crush Chardonnay, Central Coast, 2012. This is an oaky, sweeter Chardonnay. It is comparable in complexity to wines with much higher price tags.

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Chicken Tikka Masala
Serves 6

6 garlic cloves, grated
2 tsp ground ginger ginger
4 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp garam masala
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 cups whole-milk yogurt
1 tbsp kosher salt
2 Lb chicken breasts, sliced thin
3 tbsp butter (ghee if you have it)
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
2 cups heavy cream
Steamed basmati rice

In a small bowl combine the garlic, ginger, turmeric, garam masala, coriander, and cumin. Divide this spice mixture in half. Mix together half the spice mixture with the yogurt and salt in a bowl large enough to hold the chicken. Add the chicken and mix with a spoon until it is all coated. Chill for 6 hours. Cover and chill second half of spice mixture.

In a large pot, heat butter over medium heat. Stir in the onions, tomato paste, cardamom, and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes until the onion is soft and tomato paste is fragrant. Add the spice mixture, cook for 5 minutes.

Add in the can of tomatoes, including the juice. Smash the tomatoes with a spoon or with your hands as you add them. Bring this to a boil and decrease the heat. Simmer, while storing frequently, for 10 minutes. Mix in the cream and simmer for 30-40 min.

Preheat broiler to 500 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and place a wire rack over this. Arrange the mark aged chicken on this in one layer. Broil for 10 minutes until the edges are browned. The chicken will not be cooked through. Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces. Add the chicken to the sauce. Cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is 165 degrees, 10 minutes. Serve over basmati rice.

Adapted from Bon Appetit magazine.

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