Monday, March 4, 2013

Chicken Tikka Masala

Perfect Pairing:  Tandoori Rice and Naan
A few years ago I went on a girl’s trip with some friends to Washington, D.C. to visit our mutual friend, Ashley.  We spent our days seeing the sights and visiting monuments, and had a fantastic time.  One of the nights we got all gussied up and went to a very hip restaurant for dinner that turned into a club.  It was probably too hip for me.  I remember thinking the other patrons looked like the cast of Gossip Girl.  Anyway, the cuisine was Asian and Indian fusion and the food was outstanding.

Ashley happened to know the owner of the restaurant.  This will come as no surprise if you know Ashley. To know her is to love her, she is full of personality, spunk, and style.  In fact, she just started her own styling business and I have absolutely no doubt that she is going to be a huge success.  Check out her charming website at  Since she could pull some strings at the restaurant she ordered us some dishes that were not even on the menu.  One of those was Butter Chicken.  Oh, my goodness.  I was expecting chicken dripping in a garlic butter sauce, but it was a spicy tomato based sauce and I was in love. 

After that trip I did some research on butter chicken and realized it is very similar (if not the same thing) as chicken tikka masala, which is a very popular Indian dish.  I have made a few versions of tikka masala and they were good, but this one was definitely the best.  I think what really made the difference in this version was the chicken preparation.  It is spiced, then dipped in greek yogurt, and cooked under the broiler.  I have never considered doing this before and was a little dubious.  It was amazing!  The chicken was moist from the yogurt and had the perfect amount of charred flavor. 

Oddly enough, there is no butter in the recipe and the entire dish is light and healthy.  I served it with Tandoori Rice (made with brown rice) and store bought naan.  It was even great leftover. 

 Chicken Tikka Masala

Adapted by Lindsay at Perfecting the Pairing from America’s Test Kitchen


·         1 tsp kosher salt

·         ½ tsp ground cumin

·         ½ tsp ground coriander

·         ¼ tsp cayenne pepper

·         1 ½ lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into thirds (lengthwise)

·         5 cloves garlic, chopped, divided

·         2 Tb chopped fresh ginger, divided

·         1 Tb vegetable oil

·         1 red onion, chopped

·         1 Serrano chile, seeds removed and chopped

·         1 ½ Tb tomato paste

·         1 Tb garam masala

·         1 tsp curry powder

·         28 oz fire roasted, crushed, tomatoes

·         2 tsp sugar

·         Salt, to taste

·         2/3 cup half and half

·         7 oz plain, 2% Greek yogurt (like Fage)

·         1 Tb olive oil

·         Juice of half of a lemon

·         ½ cup chopped cilantro for garnish


In a small bowl combine the teaspoon of kosher salt, cumin, coriander, and cayenne pepper, stir with a fork to combine.  Coat the chicken strips with the seasoning, making sure to get all sides.  Cover the chicken with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the chopped red onion and sauté until tender, about 8 minutes.  Add three cloves of chopped garlic, one tablespoon of chopped ginger, and the chopped chile to the onions.  Stir and sauté for about 2 minutes.  Add the tomato paste, garam masala, and curry powder to the pan and stir until the spices and tomato paste are combined.  Saute for about 5 minutes, add the crushed tomatoes, and sugar, bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer on low heat for at least 20 minutes.

Ensure that the oven’s rack is in the upper/middle position.  Preheat the oven’s broiler to high.  Combine the yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, and remaining garlic and ginger in a small bowl.  Whisk to combine.  Line a baking sheet with foil and top with a cooling rack.  Dip the chicken pieces in the yogurt mixture and transfer to the baking sheet.  The chicken should have a thick coating of yogurt.  Broil the chicken until cooked through, rotating at least once, 10 to 15 minutes.  The chicken will be lightly charred.

Let the chicken rest for at least five minutes and then cut into bite sized pieces.  Taste the tomato sauce for seasoning and adjust.  Stir in the half and half and bring back to a simmer.  Stir in the chicken.  Serve over rice and garnish with cilantro.


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