You know how I always say that there's no such thing as too much chocolate? Well, Indians go by a different motto. And no, it's not YOLO. It's something more along the lines of there's no such thing as too much pepper....ever. Just take this recipe for example. It calls for more than two teaspoons of cayenne pepper, a teaspoon of black pepper(not including the amount in the garam masala), AND a whole jalapeno pepper. Any doubts about the authenticity of this recipe were definitely cleared up after seeing those ingredients.
But I'm not hatin'. I love the heat. I don't handle it real well, but I love it. It's not true Indian food unless your eyes get teary, your nose gets runny, and you're panting like a dog. That said, I did have to decrease all amounts of pepper this dish called for as well as leave out the jalapeno pepper because I'm sure I would have either died from heartburn or increased my chances for developing acid reflux, which is no joke because my dad has it and I'm pretty sure it's genetic.
And when I say I'm sure those things would have happened, it's not like an approximate assumption or anything like that. No, it's more like a without a doubt 99.9% sure. Because even AFTER decreasing all amounts of pepper in this dish, I had constant heartburn and discomfort in my chest from the time I finished eating which was around 7pm, till the next morning and then some hours after that. And then what did I do? I decided to eat the leftovers the next night, which ultimately resulted in me feeling like my stomach was literally on fire for the rest of the evening. But none of this is being said to discourage you. It's quite the opposite actually. I mean, especially if you like spicy foods.
Obviously, this chicken tikka masala is SO good that I couldn't resist going for leftovers, even if I knew the side effects weren't going to be pretty. That should speak volumes. And if it doesn't, then allow me to literally speak volumes about this delectable Indian dish. For those of you who don't know, chicken tikka masala is a classic Indian curry that involves grilling pre-marinated chunks of chicken and then serving them in a luscious tomato cream sauce. Aromatic, rich, and savory are a few words to describe this dish as a whole, but you know I love to go into details.
*Enter formal speaking side of me* The chicken in this dish is delicately marinated in yogurt and other wonderful spices such as ginger, cumin, garlic, and of course, cayenne and black pepper to give it that kick of heat. After that, it's popped into the oven to cook for about 15-20 minutes, and then it's broiled for a couple more minutes to give it that perfect, crispy exterior while keeping it succulent and juicy on the inside.
The second part of this dish, and in my opinion the highlight of it, is the sauce. Its ingredients appear to be pretty basic, but when combined, the results are extraordinary. First, spices such as garam masala, cumin, and of course cayenne pepper are fried with minced garlic to release their maximum flavors. Then the base tomato sauce is added, as well as heavy cream, which really gives the sauce that velvety richness. But that's not all. A tablespoon of sugar is added to the sauce in it's final minutes on the stove, to give it that hint of sweetness which provides the perfect contrast to the spices.
This is the part where I tell you guys how the chicken and sauce together make a phenomenal combination and blah blah blah. But that's pretty obvious considering I probably wouldn't have made it a point to give you a detailed review of this dish only to tell you that the chicken and sauce suck when they're combined. So, to spare me the carpal tunnel syndrome and to spare you guys any more of my formal food descriptions, just go gather up your ingredients and
see taste for yourself...acha?
Chicken Tikka Masala
adapted from Picture The Recipe
For the marinade
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup of plain yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon fresh grated garlic
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
For the sauce
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 (8oz) can of tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup of heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
A handful of chopped fresh cilantro, more for garnish
In a large mixing bowl, add all the marinade ingredients: yogurt, lemon juice, ginger, garlic, cayenne pepper, cumin, black pepper and salt. Stir well. Then add the chicken and mix well to ensure that all pieces are coated with the marinade. Refrigerate for at least four hours, or overnight.
After the chicken has marinated, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spread the pieces of chicken out on a well greased baking sheet, about 1 inch apart. Pop them in the oven and bake for about 15-20 minutes. Then switch the oven to broiler and let the chicken brown and/or develop a few burnt spots, for another 5-6 minutes.
While the chicken is cooking, prepare the sauce. Start by melting the butter in a skillet/frying pan. Add to it the minced garlic. Then add the spices (cayenne pepper, garam masala and cumin). Stir and fry the spices for a few seconds, then pour in tomato sauce.
Add salt and let the sauce bubble for a few minutes. Then turn the heat to low and pour in heavy cream. Add sugar, stir well, and then cover and let the sauce simmer for 5-10 minutes.
When the sauce is done, add the chicken to the sauce with a handful of roughly chopped cilantro and mix well. Garnish with some more fresh cilantro and serve hot with Indian flat bread (naan) or plain long grain rice.