Tikka

It’s been one of those weeks here where dinner is a struggle every night.  All too often, I’ve found myself scrambling at 4:30 pm to dig something out of our freezer, get it defrosted and come up with a plan.  In case you’re wondering, my favorite last-minute dinner is roasted chicken thighs – I just set them in a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet, drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil over them and season with salt and pepper before cooking (which, at 425 F, happens pretty darn quickly).  While they’re in the oven I can prepare the sides, and dinner usually comes together in less than an hour.  I’ve never heard Shane say disappointedly “chicken thighs, again??” but it goes without saying that we’d both benefit from some menu planning.  Maybe I’ll start slowly, with just one or two meals a week, as 5 seems a bit overwhelming.  Under that theory, this week was a success, as I did plan for this chicken tikka masala ahead of time!               

Tikka

As I mentioned last week, I’ve only made chicken tikka masala once before (about 3 years ago).  I tried a different recipe this time, one from the folks at Cook’s Illustrated, and while I obviously don’t have much basis for comparison, we loved it – a definite repeat!  It was surprisingly easy to put together too.  The sauce can be made ahead of time and refrigerated, which is always a bonus.  As for the chicken, it’s actually cooked under the broiler, which I was admittedly skeptical about, but it worked like a charm.  A yogurt mixture coats the chicken and protects it from the heat of the broiler so the inside can cook before the outside is burned.  I’d just note that if your chicken pieces are really thick, as mine were, you might need to broil them a few minutes longer than the recipe suggests.  The sauce had just a slight kick to it; if you like more heat include some (or all) of the ribs and seeds from your chile.  We made homemade naan again to accompany the chicken, and it was the perfect tool for scooping the extra sauce from our plates.  

Chicken Tikka Masala
from Cook’s Illustrated

Chicken
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup plain yogurt (I used nonfat but the recipe suggests whole milk yogurt)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

Sauce
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced fine (about 1 1/4 cups)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 serrano chile, minced (ribs and seeds removed)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (I used parsley instead)

To prep the chicken: Mix the cumin, coriander, cayenne, and salt together in a small bowl.  Sprinkle the mixture evenly over both sides of the chicken.  Put the chicken on a plate, cover with plastic and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes.  Whisk the yogurt, vegetable oil, garlic and ginger together in a wide bowl.  You’ll use this to coat the chicken later before cooking – set aside for now.

To make the sauce: Meanwhile, pour the oil into a large Dutch oven set over medium heat.  Once the oil is hot, add the onion and cook, stirring often, until golden, about 8 minutes.  Add the garlic, ginger, serrano chile, tomato paste and garam malasa.  Cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes, stirring almost constantly.  Stir in the crushed tomatoes, sugar and salt then bring the sauce to a boil.  Reduce the heat so your sauce is simmering and cover the pan.  Let simmer for 15 minutes, stirring a few times.  Add the heavy cream, stir to combine and bring the sauce back to a simmer (uncovered).  Take the pan off of the heat and cover to keep warm.  (You can also make the sauce ahead – just refrigerate it once it cools slightly then rewarm when you want to serve.)

To cook the chicken:  Position an oven rack about 6 inches from your broiler and preheat the broiler.  Set a wire rack inside of a foil-lined baking sheet.  Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and dip each piece in the yogurt mixture.  You want a relatively thick layer coating the chicken.  Transfer the chicken to the wire rack.  Broil the chicken until it is cooked through (to an internal temperature of 160 F), about 10-18 minutes, flipping the chicken over halfway through the cooking time.  (The cooking time will depend in large part on the thickness of your chicken pieces.)  Let the chicken rest for about 5 minutes, then cut it into 1-inch pieces and add to the warm sauce.  Add the cilantro to the sauce as well and season to taste before serving.