Chicken Tikka Masala

May 27, 2020
Chicken Tikka Masala - A creamy, spiced curry made with tomato and hunks of chicken that's a longtime favorite of Indian food lovers.

“You’re a good man, Charlie Brown.” 

Photo Credit: Durango Arts Center

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My husband works at a major university and has one of the coolest jobs

For years, he’s traveled around the state, helping companies build better widgets.  Things like “Help, we re-designed our bowling pins, and they aren’t as strong as they used to be.”  Or lately,  “Help, we want to install infrared sensors to take people’s temperatures.  What are your recommendations?”

He’s given a lot of presentations

I, on the other hand, am far from a seasoned pro.  Although, in the past couple of months, I’ve given more than I think I have in the last twenty+ years.  This isn’t a bad thing.

Photo Credit: Photo of Yves Saint Laurent being pushed onstage, Paris, 1986, via Messy Nessy Chic

So he’s decided he’s going to help me up my game and has begun offering pointers.  The latest?  Jokes.  “Inject a bit of humor into the situation.  Nothing fancy or long-winded.  Just some dead-pan one-liners to make people smile.”

The problem?  I’ve never been a very good joke person.  I can’t remember them, my delivery isn’t the smoothest, and most of the time one-liners go right over my head(!)

The other problem?  On the morning of my presentations, he tells me all these funny one-liners as he’s heading out the door.  While I give it a valiant try, my brain doesn’t retain much at 6 am.

“The number-one quality of all great storytellers is their willingness to be vulnerable, to tell on themselves in front of thousands.  Each story told is a gift to the listeners”  ~ Catherine Burns | The Moth Presents All These Wonders

So, when I’m feeling particularly nervous, instead of trying to be witty, I’ve started telling this story instead.  The story of a wife bumping along, and a husband cheering her on and trying to help however he’s able.

It adds a bit of humanity and helps break the ice.  The best part?  People have even started sending me funny ideas on the side, which have turned into little bright spots throughout the day.

Any cool public speaking tips?  I’d love to know!

Chicken Tikka Masala - A creamy, spiced curry made with tomato and hunks of chicken that's a longtime favorite of Indian food lovers.

I realized the site is lacking in recipes for Indian flavor lovers, which is unfortunate because it’s one of my husband’s favorite flavor profiles.  A year or so ago, I decided to find a few that he’d really enjoy.

As fate would have it, I’d parked myself for the day in a small conference room just outside one of the kitchenettes on the third floor.  A little before noon, one of the best smells came wafting in.  It was so distractingly delicious; I decided to seize the moment.  Emerging ever so casually to fill my teacup, I hoped the person doing the warming looked friendly enough to casually inquire about their lunch.

Turns out, it was Chicken Tikka Masala, and I quickly fell into an Indian spiced rabbit hole

I Googled and short-listed a couple of ideas that looked promising.  The result was so good that I passed along the recipe every chance I got for the better part of a month.  It was destined to become a staple in my cooking repertoire.

Despite vowing to make it on the regular, I didn’t for almost a year(!)  At that point, I worried that my notes weren’t very good or what I’d remembered was better than it actually was.  Is there anything worse than having oversold something .. to yourself?

However, last weekend my craving was finally stronger than my fear of muddling the memory of it with something good but not shout-from-the-rooftops good.  I tackled it again and barely made it to the table for dinner because we started eating straight out of the pot, standing up.

Chicken Tikka Masala - A creamy, spiced curry made with tomato and hunks of chicken that's a longtime favorite of Indian food lovers.

This creamy, spiced curry made with tomato and hunks of chicken was all I’d remembered and more.  A version that isn’t truly authentic, but accessible to anyone with a well-stocked pantry.  It’s nice for those without a grill, with the yogurt-marinated chicken spending a few minutes under the broiler to replicate the blackened, smoky bits.

It’s spicy, racy, and balanced.  Cooking the base flavors low and slow helps build a foundation that makes even a 6-pack of chicken thighs taste like something you’ve toiled over all day.  I will never go another year without making it again.

A few notes about the recipe

Chicken breasts or thighs work equally well here

The sauce of some Chicken Tikka Masala is thin and soupy; other times, it is thick and more cohesive.  It’s all a matter of personal preference – I tend to like mine somewhere in the middle.

Serve it with rice, flatbread (or naan), or spooned over your favorite grains.  We love it with a simple side of cauliflower, and often I’ll throw in a handful of shredded kale or spinach, to get my greens in – a lovely one-dish meal.

Dairy-free – I definitely think you could marinate the chicken in full-fat coconut milk (I find the cans from Trader Joe’s particularly rich) for a similarly delicious dish.  Substituting full-fat coconut milk for the cream

About the name: “Masala” is the Hindi word for spice, and it usually refers to a mixture of different flavors.  “Tikka” is a word that means “piece,” and it has a lot in common with the kebab.  Tikka masala is a spiced dish made of small pieces or chunks of meat and/or vegetables made with a spicy marinade or sauce-probably the most famous of which is Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala - A creamy, spiced curry made with tomato and hunks of chicken that's a longtime favorite of Indian food lovers.

Really Enjoy!

xoxo

~ Adapted from Bon Appetit

Chicken Tikka Masala

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ Tbsp ground turmeric
  • 1 Tbsp garam masala
  • 1 Tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 ½ cups whole-milk yogurt, divided
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ Tbsp fresh ginger, finely grated peeled
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon (or lime) juice
  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, (or breasts), cut in half lengthwise or in thirds if extra large
  • 3 Tbsp coconut oil (or ghee)
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 6 cardamom pods, crushed
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 cup water
  • ¾ cup chopped fresh cilantro + sprigs for garnish

Instructions

Marinate the Chicken

  • In a small bowl, combine turmeric, garam masala, coriander, cumin, and salt
  • In a medium bowl, add 1 ½ cups of the yogurt, lemon juice, 3 cloves of garlic, half of the ginger and half the spice mix. Whisk to combine.
  • Cut the chicken into smaller sized chunks and add to the marinade, turning to coat. Cover and chill at least 4 hours, or up to 8 hours.

Make the Sauce

  • Meanwhile, warm the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat.
  • Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally until it's lightly browned in spots (~ 5 to 8 minutes).
  • Add tomato paste, remaining garlic, ginger, and spice mix. Cook, stirring frequently until the spices are fragrant and the tomato paste has started caramelizing on the bottom of the pot (~ 2 minutes)
  • To the pot, add the crushed tomatoes, along with the liquid in the can, the cream, water, and chopped cilantro. Season with salt and pepper and stir, scraping up any bits from the bottom of the pot.
  • Bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally until flavors meld and the sauce has thickened slightly (~30 to 35 minutes)
  • Remove from heat and cover until chicken is ready (or after cooling, refrigerate if marinating chicken for more than 4 hours).

Broil the Chicken

  • Meanwhile, preheat broiler and place oven rack about 6" away from the heat source. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and set a wire rack inside the sheet.
  • Once the chicken has finished marinating, arrange in a single layer. Broil until the chicken starts to blacken in spots (it won't be cooked through), about 10 minutes.

Finish and Serve

  • Bring the tomato sauce to a simmer if it isn't already.
  • Cut chicken into bite-size pieces, add to the sauce, along with the remaining ½ cup yogurt. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until chicken has cooked through and the sauce has thickened nicely (~ 10-15 minutes)
  • Serve with rice and cilantro sprigs.
Serves:
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12 Comments

  • Reply Jennifer May 27, 2020 at 11:38 pm

    I’m an author, so events and public speaking are a necessity. I have my next one this fall (depending, of course, on the COVID situation). I’m already having nightmares about it. I’ll have to think up a couple of clever stories instead!

  • Reply Maiken May 28, 2020 at 10:38 pm

    Have you ever heard of the book “Quiet” by Susan Cain? It’s about introverts. I especially like the chapter about public speaking (and the secret on how to do it well if you’re an introvert). It’s definitely worth checking out whatever your personality

  • Reply Cassiopeia May 29, 2020 at 4:52 am

    I hate public speaking! A few years ago I had to present my work as a scientist-wannabe at an international congress and it was intense. English isn’t my first language and normally I’m not that bad, but with the stress I couldn’t improvise, you know? Having all those things to say and the fear of not being able to… so i guess it was a bit bumpy but no one complained, other than me 😉

  • Reply Laura May 29, 2020 at 7:35 pm

    So funny, I’ll love the idea of weaving in some funny jokes! I’m not usually so bad at public speaking, but I had to give a presentation to an auditorium of people for the first time, and that was scary. And of course, the computer inevitably glitched, so my powerpoint had issues.

  • Reply Meg May 29, 2020 at 8:44 pm

    Can you suggest a non-dairy sub for yogurt? Would a plant-based yogurt have the same effect, cook the same?

    • Reply Veggies By Candlelight May 29, 2020 at 8:46 pm

      I haven’t experimented with them, but I’d confidently recommend full-fat coconut milk here

  • Reply Kate May 29, 2020 at 8:49 pm

    How do you cook your rice? Any spices? Stock?

    • Reply Veggies By Candlelight May 29, 2020 at 8:50 pm

      I cook it plain, in my rice cooker. Sometimes I’ll finish it with a spoonful of ghee or butter for a recipe like this. xx

  • Reply Amanda May 30, 2020 at 5:06 am

    I used to really hate public speaking. I was that person that swayed from one foot to another and would always say, “um” and “like” in between pauses. It wasn’t until I got to college, when it all changed for me. I had to talk about subjects that I was really passionate about, and I started to enjoy public speaking. Now, I take any opportunity I can!

  • Reply Clio May 30, 2020 at 12:56 pm

    I’ve only had to speak in front of a lot of people a few times and the biggest group was at my mom’s memorial where, I think, there were about 300 people. I made sure to just look up and make eye contact with friendly people in the crowd and it totally relaxed me! Now that everybody is Zooming, I still try to do the same thing!

  • Reply Amber May 30, 2020 at 1:26 pm

    This is so timely! I’m giving a brief presentation Monday evening to the board of my association, and I am freaking out. A complete ball of anxiety! I’ve got a couple of short and funny stories I can tell. Such a cool idea!

  • Reply heydave June 1, 2020 at 10:21 am

    Great recipe! I mean to leave it 5 stars, but my thingie is only giving it 3 today. Please add 2 mentally.

    In public speaking, I always try to imagine that I’m standing there in my underwear; that always relaxes me.

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