31 January 2009

Chicken Tikka Masala with Saffron Rice Pulau




Chicken Tikka Masala, the chop suey of Indian cuisine.

Ah yes, that's right sadly: not actually of Indian origin, Chicken Tikka Masala is in fact a British creation. But incredibly tasty, I must say, and a nice introduction to the flavors and spices of India for the uninitiated. It is still right behind butter chicken and tandoori in my list of "favorite Indian dish". Even though it's not really Indian. Er, but you know what I mean. Whatever.

Essentially, it is a rich, tomato-based sauce mellowed with some cream and fragrant with garam masala, coriander, and cumin. Then you toss in chicken steeped in garlicky yogurt marinade. Good stuff. Chicken Tikka Masala is as comforting on a winter evening as any American beef stew; just serve over basmati rice with a side of naan. This version is good, but still missing "something" from what my local place can make. I'll keep tinkering, maybe add more heat or some cardamom. Until then, try this one...



Chicken Tikka Masala




Ingredients:
6 cloves of garlic, peeled
3 in. fresh ginger, peeled
2 or 3 fresh red chilis, seeded
Olive oil
1 Tbsp. mustard seeds
1 Tbsp. paprika
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ground coriander
3 Tbsp. garam masala, divided
Generous 3/4 c. plain yogurt
4 medium boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into large chunks
1 Tbsp. butter
2 medium onions, sliced very thin
2 Tbsp. tomato purée
1/3 to 1/2 c. cashews or almonds, ground very fine in a food processor
Salt
1/2 c. heavy cream
Fresh cilantro, chopped
Limes

If you're using a mini-chopper, use it to finely mince the garlic, ginger, and chilis. Alternately, you can grate them on the smallest teeth of a grater, or chop with a knife.

Heat a splash of olive oil in a large skillet or sauté pan. Add the mustard seeds. When they begin to pop, remove from the heat immediately and add them to the garlic mixture (once mustard seeds start popping, they will pop all over the place, so watch carefully and remove from heat as soon as the first one goes "pop." Toss a lid on that sucker too, so you don't lose all the seeds!)

Add the paprika, cumin, coriander, and 2 Tbsp of the garam masala. Put half of this mix in a large bowl, add the yogurt, and stir in the chicken, making sure to coat all sides with the marinade. Let it sit for about a half-hour.

Melt the butter in the large saucepan and add the sliced onions and remaining half of the garlic-spice mixture. Cook gently for at least 15 minutes. Do not brown the onions; you're trying to soften them up and mellow the spices. Add the tomato puree, ground nuts, 2 1/2 cups of water, and 1/2 tsp of salt. Stir well and bring to a gentle boil. Let the sauce reduce and thicken slightly (about 5 minutes), then reduce heat to low.

Cook the marinated chicken on a grill or under the broiler, until just cooked through.

While the chicken is cooking, add the cream and remaining 1 Tbsp of garam masala to the sauce and bring it up to a boil, then add the chicken. Check the seasoning, adding salt or cayenne pepper if desired. Top the chicken with cilantro and squeeze lime juice over the top. Serve with basmati rice or Saffron Rice Pulau (below).


Saffron Rice Pulau



Ingredients:
1/4 tsp. saffron threads
1/4 c. hot water
2 Tbsp. butter
2 cinnamon sticks
10 whole cloves
1 tsp. cumin seeds
2 c. basmati rice, rinsed well
1/3 c. raw cashews

Put the saffron threads in the hot water and set aside to steep until serving time.

Melt the butter over medium heat in a medium-sized saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Add the cinnamon, cloves, and cumin seeds and stir, 1 minute. Drain the rice well, then add to the pot and stir-fry until the grains are coated and the rice begins to smell fragrant, about 3 minutes.

Add 3 cups water and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover. Cook until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Remove cinnamon sticks and cloves. Just before serving, pour in the saffron water and stir well to combine.

To garnish, roast the raw cashews in a 350 degree oven until light golden, about 8 to 10 minutes (watch carefully, nuts burn quickly). Top rice with nuts and serve alongside Chicken Tikka Masala.

27 comments:

Snooky doodle said...

yummmmmmyyyyy i love chicken tikka masala however I ve never cooked it so far. thanks for posting the recipe I m gonna try it looks so so good :)

Nemmie said...

Do it Snooky! :)

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