Saturday, October 9, 2010

Chicken Tikka Masala: Third Time's the Charm

After two decent but not great attempts at adaptations of chicken tikka masala, I was about to give up, until this week, when I watched Bobby Flay's chicken tikka masala throwdown.  I'm not usually a fan of Bobby Flay, but there wasn't anything else on, plus it turned out that both dishes looked quite tasty and easy to make.  I'm always disappointed when Bobby Flay wins and crushes the dreams of the hometown chef; I find the whole concept of Throwdown arrogant as Bobby Flay believes he can master anything in days, while the hometown chef probably has spent years lovingly cultivated their signature dish.  In this episode, the hometown chef lost, and I thought her dish looked better, so I was inspired to recreate my own, based more on her recipe.  It turned out to be quite a success; just the right balance of spices, creaminess and acid, with the tomato-based sauce.  I rarely cook with cream, but it was necessary in this case to balance with the acidic tomato sauce, and it also helped mellow out the strong individual spices and helped blend everything together harmoniously.  Besides, I had some heavy cream leftover that was about to go bad anyway, from the last time I made chocolate ganache. At 1/2 a cup of cream, I used a lot less than every recipe I saw; I just added a little bit at a time, taste testing it, until I felt it was well balanced.  Everyone really enjoyed the dish; even my parents, who aren't that familiar with Indian food.  I'll be making this dish a lot.  I served it over rice and accompanied it with a simple mixed green salad with champagne vinaigrette dressing, a light and fresh balance to the richer curry.  We drank a few bottles of the Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier (one of my new favorite everyday drinkers, buy it at Bevmo for $3.99) and an Organic Foret Saison.  Both beers paired really well with the rich and flavorful curry; they were crisp and a nice balance to all the richness with some citrus notes that complemented the creamy tomato masala.  I'm glad we went with the beer; I can't think of a wine that would pair as well with the curry as the beer.  All in all, a really tasty meal with family outside on the patio by the pool on what will be probably one of our last mild nights in socal.

Chicken Tikka Masala recipe:
  • In the morning, cube six organic skinless chicken thighs (1.25 lbs), removing the fat when possible, and marinate in a bowl with: 1.5 cup of lowfat Greek Fage yogurt (1 cup is probably fine), 1.5 tsp of cumin, 1.5 tsp of coriander, 1.5 tsp of cumin, 1.5 tsp of turmeric, 1.5 tsp of garam masala, 1 tsp of fennel seeds, 1.5 TB of chili powder, 1 TB of tomato paste, 3 minced garlic cloves, 1-2 TB of minced ginger, freshly ground pepper.  Make sure all the chicken cubes are well coated and refridgerate
  • To prep: thinly slice 1 onion, mince 4 cloves of garlic, mince / grate 1-2 TB of ginger, seed and mince 1 jalapeno pepper, wash and chop a handful of cilantro
  • Heat up 1-2 TB of grapeseed oil in a 5 quart Le Creuset oval french oven over medium heat, and saute the marinated chicken until fully cooked, and remove
  • Add a little bit more oil if necessary and saute the onion over medium, medium-low heat, until starting to caramelize, 15 minutes
  • Turn the heat to medium and add the garlic, ginger and jalapeno pepper and saute until fragrant, ~ 1 minute
  • Add 2 tsp of garam masala, 2 tsp of paprika, 1 tsp of cumin, 1 tsp of coriander, 1 tsp of turmeric, 1 tsp of cumin seeds, and toast for a minute, then add 1 TB of tomato paste and stir everything together
  • Add 2 15 oz cans of organic tomato sauce (from Trader Joe's), 1/2 cup of water, drizzle of agave nectar, and a few shakes of chili powder, cayenne, and freshly ground pepper, and bring to a boil and reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes
  • Add 1/2 a cup of heavy cream and simmer for another 5-10 minutes.  Taste for seasoning
  • Add the chicken and simmer for another 5 minutes
  • Serve over rice and sprinkle with fresh cilantro

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