Saturday, August 14, 2010

Chicken Tikka Masala

Several years ago, when I was just beginning to get interested in cooking, my sister Jane gave me a year's subscription to Cook's Illustrated as a gift. Well, that was definitely the gift that keeps on giving because I am still using those 2007 issues for delicious recipes! It already gave us one of our all-time favorites, blueberry scones; now, it's added a new one to the list of our best meals: chicken tikka masala. I LOVE that these people at Cook's Illustrated already do the work for you, experimenting with the best ingredients, cooking methods, etc. The only things I tweaked were (surprise!) a few things to make it a bit healthier.

I also served it with brown rice with black mustard seeds, peas, carrots and celery. I got this idea from the show, Throwdown with Bobby Flay. They mentioned that sauteing whole black mustard seeds on a high heat actually brings out a nutty flavor, totally unlike the typical mustard taste. After I saw the show, I scoured the internet for a recipe. Nothing perfect came up but I found one that served as a base recipe and then I made several changes to it. Altogether, the combination of chicken tikka masala and rice with mustard seeds and vegetables makes quite a meal.

Chicken Tikka Masala
Taken from: Cook's Illustrated, Sep & Oct 2007 issue

Chicken Ingredients:
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast, trimmed of fat
  • 1 c. low-fat (1% milkfat) plain yogurt (fat free never cooks well)
  • 2 Tb. canola oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed with garlic press
  • 1 Tb. fresh ginger, grated
Sauce Ingredients:
  • 3 Tb. canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced (approx. 1 1/4 cups)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed with garlic press
  • 2 tsp. fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 jalapeno chile, ribs and seeds removed, flesh minced (caution: the hottest part of the chile is the ribs and seeds so be very careful when handling because it gets on your fingers)
  • 1 Tb. tomato paste
  • 1 Tb. garam masala (or substitute 2 tsp. ground coriander, 1/4 tsp. ground cardamom, 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper)
  • 1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes (Muir Glen brand recommended) OR approx. 4 large tomatoes, crushed in food processor
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2/3 c. fat-free half-and-half
  • 1/4 c. fresh cilantro, chopped
-Combine cumin, coriander, cayenne and 1 tsp. salt in small bowl. Sprinkle on both sides of chicken, pressing gently so spices adhere.
-Place chicken on plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30-60 minutes.
-In large bowl, whisk together yogurt, 2 Tb. oil, 2 minced garlic cloves and 1 Tb. ginger.
-Then, heat 3 Tb. oil in Dutch oven (or saucepan) over medium heat. Once heated, add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly golden (8-10 minutes).
-Add 2 minced garlic cloves, ginger, chile, tomato paste and garam masala. Cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant (about 3 min).
-Add crushed tomatoes, sugar and 1/2 tsp. salt; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. (See next steps to cook chicken while sauce simmers.)
-Stir in half-and-half and return to simmer. Remove pan from heat or turn to low to keep warm.

-CHICKEN: While sauce simmers, adjust oven rack to upper-middle position (about 5 inches from heat) and heat broiler. Cover baking sheet with aluminum foil; spray wire rack with cooking spray and then set wire rack in baking sheet
-Using tongs, dip chicken into yogurt mixture and make sure chicken has thick layer of it. (Throw away any extra yogurt.)
-Broil chicken for 10 minutes and then flip. Cook until thickest part is 160 degrees (chicken will be lightly charred in places). Time will depend on thickness of the chicken but will range from 15-25 total minutes.
-Let chicken rest 5 minutes, then cut into 1-inch chunks and stir into warm sauce. Stir in cilantro (or serve cilantro on side).

Brown Rice with Mustard Seeds, Carrots and Peas
Loosely adapted from: Group Recipes
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • water
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • 1 heaping tsp black mustard seeds
  • ½ large onion, sliced thinly
  • 2 cups carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup frozen petite peas
  • 1/2 cup celery, chopped (if desired)
  • salt and pepper
-In a rice cooker or on the stove, cook brown rice according to directions (this should take at least 30 minutes).
-Heat the oil on high heat and fry the mustard seeds, covered, until they splutter for about 30 seconds.
-Add the onions and carrots to the mustard seeds and fry on medium heat for 10 minutes until the onions have turned a light golden brown, stirring occasionally.
-Add the peas and continue to cook, about 5 minutes.
-Add the cooked rice to dish and stir to incorporate. Keep on medium heat until heated throughout.
-Serve. You can also bring the temperature to low to keep warm until ready to serve.

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