To those not intimate with foods from the Indian Subcontinent, this dish is often the characterized as the introductory class “Cultural Foods 101” of such. To some, it is rather akin to a gateway dish to even more highly addictive Indian foods. And evidently, the gate was built in Britain by a chef from the subcontinent to appease a customer seeking a modification to the chef’s curry.
What’s not to like? Chunks of chicken slowly rendered to tender relaxation in a bath of spiced yogurt, then given a hot massage in a roaster, then given a makeover hydration bath in herbed tomato and cream sauce. The scent of the sauce wafting through your kitchen alone will take you to another, more relaxed place. And those freshly ground spices; they linger on your taste buds like the memories of a parting wave goodbye to a new friend from a place you can only hope to see again. Best advice is to make plenty, so you may revisit your refrigerator in the morning for another hello.
For the marinade
1 tsp cumin, fresh ground
1 tsp coriander, fresh ground
½ tsp cardamom, fresh ground (seeds only, removed from hulls)
½ tsp dried turmeric
Juice of 1 lemon
¾ cup plain yogurt
For the dish
1 ½ pounds chicken thighs, deboned and skinless
1 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil
2 tsp ginger, freshly minced
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 tbsp garlic, minced
1 packed tsp mint, fresh and finely chopped
2 tbsp tomato paste
24 ounces diced tomatoes
1 tbsp garam masala (easily made with the addition of ground cinnamon, cloves, and green cardamom with the marinade spices)
1 tsp chili powder
¼ tsp cayenne pepper, ground
1 tbsp brown sugar
2/3 cup heavy cream
Cilantro leaves, for garnish
For the rice
1 ¼ cup Missimati Bayou Bouquet Fragrant Ecogrown White Rice
2¼ cups water
1 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil
Juice of ½ lemon
½ tsp turmeric
For the marinade: Combine all ingredients listed above in marinade mix. Blend well. Cut chicken thighs in 1 to 1½ inch cubes. Place chicken meat in marinade, blend to cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
For roasting chicken: Preheat broiler or grill. Remove chicken from marinade and with fingers wipe off excess marinade. Reserve marinade. Place chicken on a non-stick baking sheet. Broil on both sides until some browning occurs (will likely have to drain liquid from sheet before turning chicken to brown opposite side). Set aside.
For the dish: Heat ghee or oil in large non-stick skillet. Add garlic, onion, mint, and ginger and cook until onion translucent. Add the tomato paste, garam masala, chili powder, and cayenne; blend well and cook for about a minute. Add the tomatoes and brown sugar; blend well and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until mixture thickens.
In the meantime, cook rice. Heat ghee or oil in medium saucepan, then add rice and turmeric and swirl pan to coat kernels. Add water and lemon juice, bring to boil, cover with tight fitting lid, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until liquid imbibed or evaporated. Fluff with fork, and set aside.
When tomato mixture is thickened, add cream and blend well. Stir and simmer for 5 minutes, or until thickened enough to almost hold up spoon. Blend in roasted chicken and stir occasionally for 5 minutes.
Plate tikka masala alongside or atop rice, garnish with cilantro leaves, and enjoy!