I feel like it’s practically a crime to have been living in Cambridge for so long and never cooked this British-Indian classic, so here I go! I only had about half a pound of chicken breasts left in the freezer, so I opted to add an eggplant (roasted for extra flavor) to bulk it up and serve over mixed brown rice and lentils to increase the protein content.
Unfortunately, I kind of messed up the chicken by forgetting to dip it in yogurt before putting it in the oven. (I also don’t have a broil setting on my oven, so I put it as close to the heating element as I could and used the regular oven setting.) Fortunately, it didn’t dry out (which is what I was afraid of) and ended up tasting fine anyway, so don’t worry about it if you do the same thing. My tomatoes and yogurt were both really acidic, so I added an extra teaspoon of sugar and a little sprinkle of baking soda to take the edge off a bit. I also found the original recipe a bit bland (though that’s partly the nature of the dish; this is British Indian food, after all), so I doubled the garam masala and threw in a teaspoon of chile flakes as well.
The final result was…well, it reminded me why I don’t usually order chicken tikka masala when I go for Indian food: it doesn’t have the amazing, complex spiciness that I want from a curry. I have some hope that the flavors will deepen with time–that’s what happens with chili, after all. And, on the bright side, it’s quite a light dish, not greasy at all, which is my only usual issue with (restaurant) Indian food. All in all, I’d say the recipe needs some tweaking for personal taste, but it’s a solid base on which to build.
Yogurt chicken tikka masala
Yield: 4-6 servings.
Adapted from Picklee.
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 large eggplant
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 bell peppers, cut into strips
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1-2 Tbsp garam masala
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2-3 tsp sugar
16 oz/2 c plain yogurt, divided
1/4 c chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
Combine cumin, coriander, cayenne, and salt in small bowl. Apply the rub to chicken, cover and let marinate for 30 to 60 minutes. Preheat oven to 450 F/230 C. Piece eggplant a few times with a fork, place on a baking sheet, and roast in preheated oven 20-30 minutes, until just tender. When it’s done, chop into cubes (peeling optional, in my opinion). Reduce oven heat to 400 F/205 C (broil, if you can).
Heat oil in large skillet oven over medium heat. Add onion and peppers and cook until onions are light golden, 6-8 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, tomato paste, and garam masala and cook (stirring frequently) until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, 10 oz (1.25 c) yogurt, sugar, and salt to taste. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. If a thicker sauce is desired, uncover about halfway through cooking. (I’m a fan of thick curries, so I left the lid off the entire time.) Remove pan from heat and cover to keep warm.
While sauce simmers, adjust oven rack to upper-middle position (about 6 inches from heating element). Using tongs, dip chicken into yogurt (chicken should be coated with thin layer of yogurt) and arrange on a foil- or parchment-lined baking sheet or broiler pan. Broil chicken until browned, 10 to 18 minutes, flipping chicken halfway through cooking.
Let chicken rest 5 minutes, then cut into 1-inch chunks and stir into warm sauce. Stir in cilantro or parsley and adjust seasoning with salt and/or pepper to taste.
Serving suggestion: over brown rice, basmati rice, mixed brown rice and lentils, and/or naan. Would go well with roasted or pan-seared cauliflower.