The Dude and I discovered a really wonderful Indian restaurant near our home called India House. The food was divine, the owner was charming, and the service was impeccable. And the cost? Wow, it was a full dinner with appetizers, entrée, and dessert for two – and it was around $40 – with tip!
When we were driving home I had visions of Bollywood dancing in my head and I thought, I’ve really got to get over my fear of Indian cooking and give it a try. I think my fear of this cuisine stems from the large variety of spices that are required. Spices that I typically don’t use on a day-to-day basis. But today we make one of my favorites – Chicken Tikka Masala. Let’s face our fear of Indian spices and do this together!
If your pantry is anything like mine, you don’t typically have on hand cardamom pods, fresh coriander seeds, etc. to make the spice mix garam masala. That means you’ll need to do a bit of advance work and find a great place to buy fresh spices. I’m very lucky that there is a shop not far from our house, so it’s relatively easy for me to get what I need. Having said that, you can also buy garam masala in your spice aisle pre-made, but what fun is that? If you are going to embrace the culture and the cuisine then you’ve got to start from the ground up and do it yourself! Once you’ve made up a batch of this wonderful mix you’ll be all set to make Indian food any night of the week!
- 1 large cinnamon stick, or two medium sticks, coarsely crushed
- 1 TBSP whole cumin seeds
- 1 TBSP coriander seeds
- 1 TBSP peppercorns
- 1 TBSP cardamom seeds
- 1 TBSP whole cloves
- 1 TBSP fennel seeds
- ½ tsp grated nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread out all the spices in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Place in the preheated oven for 20 minutes until the aroma of toasted spices begins to emanate. Try not to swoon from the lovely smells! Remove from the oven and allow to come to room temperature. Grind the spices in a blender or food processor until reduced to a powder. This may take a while, since some of the spices (especially the cinnamon) are very coarse. You may have to sift the mixture several times in order to get the powder consistency you need. Transfer the garam masala to a container with a tight-fitting lid. (From the book Curries Without Worries by Sudha Koul.)
The recipe for the Chicken Tikka Masala below is from Aarti Sequeira from The Food Network. I think she is just adorable, and she makes Indian cuisine very approachable.
Chicken Tikka Masala
- 1 cup plain yogurt, whisked until smooth
- 3 TBSP ginger-garlic paste (recipe follows below)
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into large bite-sized pieces (Note: I used chicken breast, since that’s what I had on hand)
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 3 TBSP butter
- 1/3 cup ginger-garlic paste
- 2 Serrano peppers, minced (seeds removed if you don’t want it spicy)
- 2 TBSP tomato paste
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 2 tsp paprika
- 8 Roma tomatoes, diced
- 1 ½ tsp kosher salt
- 1 to 2 cups water
- Oil for sautéing or grilling chicken
- ½ cup heavy cream
- Minced fresh cilantro for garnish
- Cooked rice, naan, or crusty bread for serving
For the marinade: in a large bowl, mix together the marinade ingredients, add the chicken and toss to coat. Marinade at least 30 minutes or overnight in the refrigerator.
For the sauce: place a large skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil and butter. When the butter has melted, add the ginger-garlic paste and the Serrano peppers. Sauté until lightly browned around the edges. Add the tomato paste and cook until the tomato has darkened in color, about 3 minutes. Add the garam masala and the paprika and sauté for about 1 minute to draw out the flavors.
Add the tomatoes, salt and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil, turn down to simmer and cook until thickened, about 20 minutes. You may need to add more water depending on how much liquid the tomatoes give off.
Meanwhile, fire up the grill or another skillet. When nice and hot, brush with oil. Place the chicken on the grill or in the skillet, shaking off some of the excess marinade. Cook until charred, about 2 minutes on each side. (Don’t worry that the chicken is under cooked, it will finish cooking in the sauce.)
Pour the sauce into a blender or food processor (or use an immersion blender), and process until smooth. Pour back into the skillet and bring back to a boil. Add the chicken, take the heat down to a simmer and cook about 10 minutes. Add the cream and stir through. Garnish with cilantro and serve over rice.
- ½ cup garlic, whole
- ½ cup fresh ginger, peeled, cut into ½ inch slices
- ¼ cup canola oil
Throw all the ingredients in a food processor and let it go until it forms a semi-smooth paste. Save what you don’t use in a glass jar, in the refrigerator.
Okay friends, for my first run at cooking Indian cuisine, I have to say it was FABULOUS! Get a group of friends together, rent some Bollywood movies, cook this recipe up and serve with a great India Pale Ale beer – you won’t be sorry!