My first memory of chicken tikka masala was from my freshman year of college. I had gone out to eat with a group of friends from the newspaper to a nicer Indian restaurant in Georgetown. After the server sat our large group, he pointedly asked, “Raise your hand if you’re ordering chicken tikka masala. I know someone in this group is ordering chicken tikka masala”. Our friend Tim somewhat sheepishly raised his hand. He was indeed ordering the chicken tikka masala. I’d never heard of chicken tikka masala at the time, and only inferred from the waiter’s tone that chicken tikka masala was not true Indian cuisine.
Turns out, that’s probably true (the jury is still out on chicken tikka masala’s precise origins) and chicken tikka masala does win the prize for most universally appealing to white people (apparently it’s Britain’s most popular dish). But, like most popular things, chicken tikka masala is popular because it’s really, really good. Surly waiters aside, I’m never disappointed when I order it when we go out for Indian in the neighborhood and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with this recipe.
We decided to try and make chicken tikka masala for our supper club. After scouring the internet for recipes, cross referencing one against the other, reading comments and reviews, we landed on a recipe from The Pioneer Woman and adapted it to suit our tastes (chicken thighs forever and always). For not requiring tons of obscure spices or days of simmering, we think it turned out pretty damn good. You can feel free to cross-reference this claim with our friend Ted.
Chicken Tikka Masala, adapted from The Pioneer Woman
4 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced or grated
1 – 2″ piece of fresh ginger, grated
3 tablespoons garam masala
1 – 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
salt and pepper
cayenne pepper or jalapeños if you want it spicy
For the rice
2 cups basmati rice
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon turmeric (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups water
Sprinkle the chicken on both sides with salt, ground coriander and ground cumin. Put them in a large tupperware and pour the yogurt over the chicken. Coat the chicken in the yogurt. Let the chicken sit in the marinade for an hour, or preferably overnight.
Turn on the broiler to high. Line a baking sheet with tin foil and place a metal rack over the baking sheet. Place the chicken in an even layer on the rack. Broil the chicken, 5 – 7 minutes per side, until charred and cooked through. Once cooled slightly, cut into chunks.
Start your rice. Cook the rice according to the rice cooker or package instructions with the turmeric, butter and salt.
While the chicken is broiling, saute the onion in a few tablespoons of butter, until translucent. Add the garlic and ginger and cook a minute or two more. Add the garam masala. Add the tomatoes and tablespoon of sugar. Add the jalapeños or cayenne, if using. Let simmer for 15 or 20 minutes to let the flavors come together. Use an immersion blender to blend the sauce until it doesn’t have any chunks. Add the cream and season with salt and pepper. A few minutes before serving, add the chicken and stir to coat it with the sauce.
Serve the chicken tikka masala over rice. Naan optional. If you happen to be getting the frozen naan from Trader Joe’s, go with the garlic naan.