I have to admit that Indian cuisine is pretty new to me. I have tried it while out at a few restaurants throughout the years. Some dishes impressed me more than others. One that I enjoyed in particular was Chicken Tikka Masala. I recently started testing some recipes at home for this rich, earthy Indian dish. If you're not familiar with it, Chicken Tikka Masala often begins with chicken that is marinated in yogurt and spices, then cooked in a tandoor oven. The chicken is then combined with ingredients like, tomato sauce, garlic, ginger and coconut milk/cream. And, it's usually served with basmati rice.
Since I do not own a tandoor oven (and I'm pretty sure that most of you don't either), I decided to simplify the recipe using one large pot right on the stove top. My recipe begins by slightly cooking chunks of boneless chicken in a little oil. Next, some onions, garlic and ginger get stirred in. I, then, add the spices in so that they get a chance to slightly toast in the oil prior to proceeding with the recipe. I like the inclusion of chickpeas, but this is completely optional. Tomato puree is added as the chicken finishes cooking. The mixture gets finished with some heavy cream, plain yogurt or full-fat coconut milk. (Any of the three worked well in my testing of this recipe, but I did prefer using the coconut milk.)
Serve this vibrant, beautiful chicken over a bed of basmati rice (easily found in the rice section of most supermarkets these days) and garnish with fresh cilantro. (I prefer everything doused with a squeeze of lemon, too.)
Serving this with naan bread (an Indian flatbread found pretty easily in the bakery section at your supermarket) is almost a requirement. The bread is used to scoop up the chicken and to dip into the sauce as you make your way through this outstanding dish.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I have made several versions of Tikka Masala as I have researched the dish and recipe tested during the development of this recipe. I had success converting this to a vegetarian dish solely using canned, drained chickpeas or with using cubed, roasted butternut squash. So, there is some leeway in the recipe if you'd like to make it a vegetarian one. I have, also, read that cauliflower florets can be a good substitute for meat in this dish.
Yields 4 - 6 servings.
2 tablespoons coconut or olive oil
1 1/2 pounds boneless and skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size chunks
1 onion, peeled and minced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced/grated
1 heaping tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
2 tablespoons garam masala (found in the spice section)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon paprika
1/4 tablespoon cayenne pepper (adjust according to preference)
1 28-ounce can tomato puree
1/2 cup canned chickpeas, drained (optional - see paragraph above)
1 cup plain Greek yogurt, heavy cream or full-fat coconut milk
Fresh lemon wedges
Naan bread, warmed
Heat oil over medium heat in a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven. Add chicken. Cook three minutes - stirring occasionally. (No need to brown chicken too much or cook chicken through at this point.) Add onion, garlic and ginger. Stir and cook one minute. Add garam masala, cumin and paprika. Stir while spices become slightly fragrant - about two minutes. Stir in tomato puree and chickpeas (if using).
Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and allow to barely simmer while chicken finishes cooking (about ten minutes). Sauce will be somewhat thick, yet should be thin enough to simmer. (If needed, thin at this point with a splash of chicken broth or water.)
Test a piece of chicken for doneness.
Stir in yogurt, cream or coconut milk. Season with salt, if needed. Serve immediately.
Serve with basmati rice (cooked per package directions) and naan bread. Garnish with cilantro and lemon.