Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Freedom Tastes Like Indian Food: Chicken Tikka Masala

On Independence Day, I served a very nontraditional dinner. But, hey, it's a free country; I can do what I want!

I made one of my favorite Indian dishes for the first time ... chicken tikka masala with cucumber-mint raita and naan.

It was delicious and my family loved it! Even the 8-year-old ate it without complaining. Though I shouldn't have been surprised because we have fed her a wide variety of foods her entire life so she is growing quite a sophisticated little palate. In kindergarten she drew a picture of kale.

I am always interested in becoming a more sophisticated cook by learning to cook new things. Food from other cultures always makes me nervous. I don't like to eat my mistakes, and sometimes exotic ingredients are too expensive to risk messing up the dish.

For chicken tikka masala, I had training wheels. I spied a package of McCormick Recipe Inspirations for Chicken Tikka Masala at my local Wal-mart and I snapped it up. It cost $1.

The packet has pre-measured spices and the recipe on the back. It's training wheels -- you don't have to purchase an entire jar of Garam Masala to make a dish you might not like and then waste the rest of the spice blend. You purchase only what you need, learn to make the recipe and, if you like it, can make it again with spices you already have (after you purchase any exotic ones you don't have.)

Did it taste exactly like the chicken tikka masala I crave from Mother India in Morgantown? No. But I think it would if I -- gasp! -- added more cream. But it was close. And it satisfied my family and it made A LOT so we had leftovers for a couple of lunches on the following days.

I will definitely make this again!

Here's the recipe:


2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon garlic (McCormick's is dried/dehydrated; you could probably press a clove or two yourself)
1 teaspoon Garam Masala (which is a blend of coriander, black pepper, cumin, cardamom and cinnamon)
Crushed red pepper to taste
1 teaspoon cumin

2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt

Melt butter in large nonstick skillet on medium heat. Add chicken, onion and lemon juice; cook and stir 10 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink. Add all of the Spices except Red Pepper; cook and stir 1 minute.

Stir in tomatoes until well mixed. Stir cream into cornstarch and salt until smooth. Gradually stir into skillet. Stir in Red Pepper to taste, if desired. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; stirring frequently, simmer 5 minutes or until slightly thickened.

Serve with cooked rice or naan bread, if desired.

I served this with hot cooked basmati rice and homemade naan, to which I've dedicated a separate post. Read about the naan (fried dough) recipe I make that starts in a bread machine, in a post titled "Naan? Naw. But the best fried dough you'll ever eat!"

This meal took me maybe 40 minutes to make with all the chopping and cutting included. My husband helped prepare the naan simultaneously. If you're working alone, that'll add a little to your prep time.

On the second day, I made raita after reading some recipes online. I took a 5-ounce carton of Greek yogurt and stirred in a little granulated white sugar, a little cumin, some finely chopped cucumber and some finely chopped fresh mint I grow in the kitchen windowsill. You could thin it with a little milk if the cucumber juice doesn't, if you want. I just eyeballed it -- I'm sorry I don't know exact proportions. Taste and adjust if it doesn't seem quite right.

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