Entrées,  Recipes

Marinated Chicken with an Onion-Pepper-Almond Sauce (Chicken Tikka Masala)

This dish doesn’t taste like the Chicken Tikka Masala you get in Indian restaurants. The complexity of the sauce really impressed us – it was sweet, slightly spicy, nutty…really lovely around the tender chicken pieces. I served this with some of the Malabar Parantha that I made and froze a while back. They reheated wonderfully! As with almost all Indian and Middle Eastern dishes, I ate this with a big scoop of plain yogurt on the side. It was a great meal!

Marinated Chicken with an Onion-Pepper-Almond Sauce (Chicken Tikka Masala)

Marinated Chicken with an Onion-Pepper-Almond Sauce (Chicken Tikka Masala)
660 Curries: The Gateway to Indian Cooking – Raghaven Iyer

Serves 4

For the chicken tikkas:
Bamboo or metal skewers
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons Ginger Paste (page 15)
2 tablespoons Garlic Paste (page 15)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
2 teaspoons coriander seeds, ground
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, ground
2 teaspoons Kashmiri chiles; or 1/2 teaspoon cayenne (ground red pepper) mixed with 1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher or sea salt
1/2 teaspoon Punjabi garam masala (page 25)
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut lengthwise into 1-inch-wide strips

For the sauce:
2 tablespoons Ghee (page 21) or canola oil
1 small red onion, coarsely chopped
1 small red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup slivered blanched almonds
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 cup diced tomatoes, fresh or canned (no need to drain)
1/4 cup heavy (whipping) cream or half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher or sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (ground red pepper)
1/4 teaspoon Punjabi garam masala (page 25)
Vegetable cooking spray
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems for garnishing

1. If you are using bamboo skewers, place them in a flat dish filled with water and let them soak for an hour.

2. While the skewers are soaking, make the marinade: Combine the yogurt, Ginger Paste, Garlic Paste, cilantro, coriander, cumin, Kashmiri chiles, salt, garam masala, and turmeric in a small bowl. Whisk to blend.

3. Put the chicken strips in a large bowl and pour this full-flavored, red-hot-looking marinade over them. Toss to thoroughly coat the meat. Refrigerate, covered, for at least 30 minutes or up to 6 hours.

4. When you are ready to cook the chicken, make the sauce: Heat the ghee in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, almonds, and raising, and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables soften and then acquire honey-brown patches, 10 to 12 minutes. The nuts and raisins will turn reddish brown, and a thin film of brown will coat the bottom of the pan. (Forcing the vegetables into a small pan allows them to sweat a little, creating moisture that prevents burning.)

5. Stir the tomatoes into the pan and scrape the bottom to deglaze it. Pour this chunky sauce into a blender jar, and add the cream, salt, cayenne, and garam masala. Puree, scraping the inside of the jar as needed, to make a thick, nutty-gritty, reddish-brown sauce.

6. Pour the sauce into a medium-size saucepan and simmer it over low heat, stirring it occasionally, while you grill the chicken.

7. Preheat a gas or charcoal grill, or the broiler, to high.

8. While the grill is heating, thread the chicken strips, covered with the marinade, onto the skewers, accordion-style. If you are grilling, lightly spray the grill grate with cooking spray. Grill the chicken, covered, turning the skewers occasionally, until the pieces are light brown, the insides are no longer pink, and the juices run clear, 6 to 8 minutes. If you are broiling, position the oven rack so the top of the chicken will be 2 to 3 inches from the heat. Lightly spray the rack of a broiler pan with cooking spray, place the skewers on the rack, and broil, turning the skewers occasionally, until the chicken is light brown, the meat is no longer pink inside, and the juices run clear, 6 to 8 minutes.

9. Slide the chicken off the skewers into the sauce. Stir once or twice to make sure the sauce drenches the tender, juicy meat, and then serve, sprinkled with the cilantro.

Ginger Paste:

Makes about 1 1/4 cups

8 ounces coarsely chopped fresh ginger

Pour 1/2 cup water into a blender jar, and then add the ginger. (Adding the water first will ensure a smoother grind.) Puree, scraping the inside of the jar as needed, until it forms a smooth, light brown paste. Store the paste in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. (I often divide the paste into smaller containers and freeze them for up to 1 month. Another option is to place 1-tablespoon portions in ice cube trays and freeze them; once they are frozen, pop them out and transfer them to freezer-safe self-sealed bags.)

Garlic Paste:

50 medium-size to large cloves garlic, peeled

Pour 1/2 cup water into a blender jar, and then add the garlic. (Adding the water first will ensure a smoother grind.) Puree, scraping the inside of the jar as needed until it forms a smooth paste. Store the paste in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. (I often divide the paste into smaller containers and freeze them for up to 1 month. Another option is to place 1-tablespoon portions in ice cube trays and freeze them; once they are frozen, pop them out and transfer them to freezer-safe self-sealed bags.)

MacGourmet Rating: 5 Stars

Ashley Covelli is a food photographer, recipe developer, and culinary instructor based in Ossining, New York. She loves helping people become enthusiastic and adventurous in the kitchen so that they can build skills and confidence to cook for themselves and their loved ones. She can almost always be found with at least 3 different beverages within arm's reach.

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