My Indian craving has not subsided. I’m growing very comfortable with the idea that it may well be a permanent addition to my life. Some of these spices I’d never even heard of, but they are apparently staples in an Indian kitchen comparable to thyme and nutmeg in Lyon.
While tikka masala was indeed named one of Britain’s national dishes a few years back, the history of the dish is not so simple. After reading Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors for a class (did I mention how much I love Plan II?), it turns out that Indian cuisine is a melange of international influences, with tikka masala’s real invention in Britain and vindaloo’s origins in Portugal. It really makes you question the meaning of “national cuisine.”
I mean, what is American food? Is it fried chicken? Or a Philly cheesesteak? Or a hamburger? Or even PB&J? It’s easy to see just how complicated defining American national cuisine is, and it’s important to treat the food of other cultures in the same manner, each with it’s own regional differences and complications. It is important that we not boil “Indian food” down to a minimal collection of dishes for fear of missing out on some true delicacies.
So here is my creation. Whether or not it is representative of an authentic Indian dish or merely an American bastardization, it was freaking delicious. Plus, whoda thunk such a beauty could come from Buzzfeed?
chicken tikka masala
for the chicken tikka
- 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp. table salt
- 2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of fat
- 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
- 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- 3-4 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
- 1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger (or more if you like your chicken zingy)
for the masala sauce
- 3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1 medium onion, diced fine (about 1 1/4 cups)
- 3-4 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed
- 2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
- 1 serrano chile, ribs and seeds removed, minced (leave the seeds in for a spicier sauce)
- 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
- 1 Tbsp. garam masala (to make your own, combine 2 tsp. ground coriander, 1/4 tsp. ground cardamom, 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon, and 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper)
- 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
- 2 tsp. sugar
- 1/2 tsp. table salt
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
for the rice
- cook basmati rice in a rice maker or stove top with cumin seeds, whole cloves, and anise to taste
-Combine cumin, coriander, cayenne, and salt in small bowl. Sprinkle both sides of chicken with spice mixture, pressing gently so mixture adheres. Place chicken on plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes. In large bowl, whisk together yogurt, oil, garlic, and ginger; set aside.
-Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until light golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, chile, tomato paste, cayenne and garam masala; cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, sugar, and salt; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in cream and return to simmer. Remove pan from heat and cover to keep warm.
-While sauce simmers, adjust oven rack to upper-middle position (about 6 inches from heating element) and heat broiler. Using tongs, dip chicken into yogurt mixture (chicken should be coated with thick layer of yogurt) and arrange on wire rack set in foil-lined rimmed baking sheet on broiler pan. Discard excess yogurt mixture. Broil chicken until thickest parts register 160 degrees on instant-read thermometer and exterior is lightly charred in spots, 10 to 18 minutes, flipping chicken halfway through cooking.
-Let chicken rest 5 minutes, then cut into 1-inch chunks and stir into warm sauce (do not simmer chicken in sauce; it may get overcooked). Stir in cilantro, adjust seasoning with salt, and serve with cooked basmati rice.