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Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala

We ate at 7:00 last night, by which time Wyatt and Loretta were cross-eyed with hunger .  As I've mentioned before, 5:00 (6:00 if you're living on the edge) becomes your new dinnertime with the advent of children.

I was so tired yesterday--just couldn't get going to empty the dishwasher and start dinner.  These are the times that more well-adjusted people order take-out or make a grilled cheese sandwich.  They check in with themselves ("Wow!  I sure am tired tonight.  I think I"ll give myself a break") and make a wise decision NOT to walk down to the store with their toddler at 6:00 to buy cream for the Saveur recipe that's stubbornly lodged in their brain.  I am glad those people inhabit the world.  But I am not one of them.

At least I have something to show for it.  This Chicken Tikka Masala is mighty close to other things I've made over the years, but I've never actually made this "classic," as Saveur terms it.  Loretta and Yancey were taking marathon naps, Wyatt was playing computer games, and I was lying in bed flipping though new cooking magazines.  I think this became Priority Number One because 1) it looked tasty and easy and 2) I had everything for it.  Except for cream. So I promised Loretta a sucker if she'd come with me to the store.  Of course she finished it one block into our walk and was begging for Cheetos by the time we got there.  When I said "no," she proceeded to lean out of her stroller and throw several bags from the display rack.  It seems slightly humorous now that I'm 24 hours away from it, but I wanted to drop her off at the bus stop in that moment.  Rascal.

Once we finally sat down, Wyatt could not get enough.  He ate a huge helping at dinner, then kept stealing more chicken from the pan while he was helping me do dishes.  He said, "Remember when I didn't like spicy food?"  Cute.  This isn't very spicy, despite the jalapeño (I used a Thai chile) in the curry.  You could spice it up or put some fresh chiles on top of yours like I did. I've got two Thai chile plants going berserk in my garden, so I'll be putting them on oatmeal pretty soon.

Had leftovers for lunch today, and it was even better.  Put Loretta down for a nap, cleared the table, picked another chile, and hoped Safeway hasn't taken out a restraining order on us yet.

Working Lunch

Chicken Tikka Masala
This is almost exactly as it appears in Saveur except I used just one onion.  They called for two, and that seemed like a lot to me.  Plus, it was one of those nights when I was invested in the kids really liking dinner. Too many onions might have jeopardized that.

1 tbsp. ground turmeric
4 tsp. garam masala
6 cloves garlic, crushed
1  2 1⁄2" piece ginger, peeled and chopped
jalapeño, stemmed and chopped
1  28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, undrained
2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts,
cut into 1 1⁄2" cubes
1⁄4 cup plain yogurt
Kosher salt, to taste
6 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1⁄2 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tbsp. paprika
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
Cilantro leaves, julienned fresh ginger, and fresh chiles  for garnish
Cooked basmati rice, for serving

1. In a blender, purée turmeric, 2 tsp. garam masala, coloring, garlic, ginger, jalapeños, and 1⁄2 cup water. Put paste into a bowl. In the same blender, purée tomatoes and strain through a sieve. In a bowl, mix 2 tbsp. paste, chicken, yogurt, and salt; marinate for 30 minutes. Place oven rack 4" from heating element; heat to broil. Transfer chicken to a foil-lined sheet tray; broil until cooked, 5–6 minutes; set aside.

2. Heat butter in 6-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Add coriander and cumin; toast 4–6 minutes. Add paprika and onions; cook until soft, 6–8 minutes. Add remaining paste; brown for 5–6 minutes. Add tomatoes; cook for 2 minutes. Stir in cream and 1 cup water; boil. Reduce heat; simmer until thickened, 6–8 minutes. Stir in remaining garam masala and chicken; season with salt. Serve with garnishes and rice.

Reader Comments (18)

Ah, the famed tikka masala. I have no idea where this dish originates, but it does crack me up. I make a version, sort of, but I don't go through all of this hassle. Onions, garlic, curry powder, cumin... Smell up the house... Add chicken and tomato paste with some water. Cook. Add veggies. Cook. Add white wine (optional). Reduce. Add yogurt or cream or mayo or coconut milk.

I'm a cheat of a cook.

September 22, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterpds

Love this dish!!! Yours looks terrific! And I'm a freak like you, too. I rarely order takeout.

September 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTheKitchenWitch

This is fun to read, great. I think it's funny that family life can be so similar no matter where you live. I'm from Germany and it's the same here. I have to admit that sometimes we go the easy way and get some take-away food. Our emergency dishes are chicken with tomatoes italian style or a Thai curry. Your Chicken Tikka Masala looks so delicious, I'll definitely try it soon.

September 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKristina @ Trivial Bliss

I have never made a dish like that, but I love spicy and it looks AMAZING! I just bought naan bread for the first time - this looks like the dish to go with that!

September 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBiz

can you come to my house tonight and make this? i won't even mind eating at 7. :)

September 22, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbethany

Looks terrific, lot's of great flavors in this dish.

September 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHélène

I LOVE this stuff!

September 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMidori

sarah this writing is way too close to home, everything about it. Well almost everything. the cheetos, the bus stop, the can't get a recipe out of my head, and the advent of children. This made me laugh and I needed that, and it looked mighty tasty.

September 22, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkamille scellick

Girl, you CRAZY!

September 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNaomi Momosis

I echo Bethany's comment! I'm going to put this on my request list :)

September 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEm

i've been craving indian food like nobody's business so although i completely do take out, i can't wait to give this a whirl. went apartment hunting tonights. once i actually have a place to call home, perhaps this will be my christening meal. love!

September 22, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjordan

This is one of my favorites...and I'm impressed you went to the store for cream! I would have either left it out or made a grilled cheese, and then would have been disappointed.

September 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCate

.....you crazy woman, i can so identify not getting some recipe out of the head, and doing whatever it takes to make it happen. (my poor husband) ,having to run to the store at some hunger witching hour because I just had to have this one thing to make a recipe. this is the one time i will not improvise,if i need the one ingredient that will make or break the dish. this apple doesn't fall far from the tree, sorry for your disability,that i may be liable for. it is 6:35 am, and i'm plotting how i can squeeze a shopping trip in before my 7:30 dentist appointment to pick up a few missing ingredients to pull this recipe together for dinner tonight,because I can't possible wait to eat it, it looks so darn good!!

September 23, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermfm

P.S......i swear your food on the brain disorders, are a direct result of bribing you with an apple to get you into a stroller, to walk down to safeway (a block from the house) so i could pick up some forgotten item at the store,and you know me, there was always a forgotten items. you must've eaten a bushel a year. at least i gave you an apple instead of a sucker.although i know you could never bribe that darling with an apple, she'd never go anywhere....so hold your ground loretta, you've worked hard for it, you little rascal!

September 23, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermfm

I want to make this just so I can dance around my kitchen saying "tikka tikka tikka masala" over and over again.

September 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBeth R&V

This one has been on my brain too! (Of course, instead, I settled for take-out.) How did it compare to restaurant versions you've tried?

September 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMuchDependsOnDinner

Sarah, I LOVE your blog! I'm amazed at your furious pace of posting (even "slowed down" to one every other day - wowzers!). Fantastic! I completely identify with your cooking philosophy; more often than not, I find a recipe I adore, but modify it according to my pantry's/fridge's contents. I can't wait to peruse all of your recipes....
I make a similar version of this, except it's channa masala (chickpeas) and doesn't have yogurt or cream in it. However, I do like to eat it with minted, strained yogurt and naan! I am definitely making this the next time I crave Indian. Looks delicious!

September 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKatherine @ NightOwlChef

Just made -- it's simmering while rice is cooking. The kids are snitching ... I did though swap out the chicken breasts for left over chicken for a way too big bird I roasted the other night. Thank you.

October 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnne

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