Chicken Tikka Masala and Naan

Since I have gone back to work, time is becoming more precious. On a working day, I can hardly find time to make any special food for dinner. Our week night dinner is filled with quick stir-fry, pasta, and weekend leftover. Although quick and simple food are delicious too, sometimes you just want a little more spice in your daily life. So, I made this make-ahead chicken tikka masala last week. Just because it is Indian food (more accurately, Indian style food, since chicken tikka masala is supposed to be a British creation) does not mean that it is complicated although it does require more than a few ingredients, that is what makes cooking fun!

To make it quick to cook on weeknight, I made the sauce ahead on weekend. To prepare it for dinner on weeknight, all I had to do was to marinate the chicken with the spice rub for 45 mins while I was doing other chores in the house. Then put the chicken in the oven, reheat the sauce and assemble this delicious saucy dish in no time.

Recipe:

Chicken Tikka Masala
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Magazine September/2007 Issue

For the chicken tikka:

1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of fat*
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt*
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 2tsp)
1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger

For the masala sauce:

3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced fine (about 1 1/4cup)
2 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 2 tsp)
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 fresh serrano chili, ribs and seeds removed if you cannot take the heat
(I used thai chile since I had them on hand)
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp garam masala
1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes*
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

* See Kithchen Notes

Directions:

Marinate the chicken: Mix cumin, coriander, cayenne and salt in a small bowl. Rub mixture on both sides of chicken. Refrigerate chicken for 30 to 60 mins or longer.
Make yogurt coating: Mix yogurt, oil, garlic and ginger, set aside.
Make the sauce: Heat oil in large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, stir occasionally and cook until light golden, 6 to 8 mins. Add garlic, ginger, chile tomato paste and garam masala to the onion, stir frequently, until fragrant, for about 3 mins. Add crushed tomatoes, sugar and salt, bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 15mins, stirring occasionally. Stir in cream and return to simmer. Remove pan from heat and cover to keep warm.
Broil the chicken: While sauce simmers, adjust over rack to upper middle position (about 6″ from heating element) and heat broiler. Put a wire rack on a foil-lined baking sheet. Dip chicken into yogurt mixture and coat chicken with a thick layer of yogurt. Put chicken on the wire rack. Broil chicken for 10 to 18mins (mine is done around 15 mins). Flip chicken half way through cooking time. Chicken is done when it reaches about 160F and is slightly charred.
Let chicken rest for 5 mins. Cut it into chunks and stir into warm sauce. Stir in cilantro, adjust seasoning with salt, and serve with basmati rice or naan.

Kitchen notes:

I made the full recipe of sauce but used much less chicken (less than 1 1/2 lbs) because N loved the sauce.
5% plain yogurt instead of full-fat was what I used and the dish turned out fine.
I used a mix of crushed and pureed diced tomatoes in juice because the brand of crushed tomatoes that I used was very thick and I did not like really thick sauce.

Usually I serve the chicken tikka masala or any Indian curry dish with store-bought naan bread but I was always curious about what was in the naan. So I tried making Madhur Jaffrey’s naan this time. It was really easy to make. The most difficult part is the hand-kneading part but it was a good exercise. Different from the original recipe, I made it using a cast iron pan instead of the grill and oven. And it came out very well. Here is my adaptation of the recipe.

Recipe:

Naan
Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey

Ingredients:

5 fl oz warm milk, around 95F to 105F
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp dried active yeast
1 lb all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp vegetable oil plus little extra
5 fl oz yogurt, lightly beaten (I used 5%)
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Directions:

Mix milk, sugar and yeast in a small bowl. Set asides for 15-20mins until mixture is foamy.

Sift flour, salt and baking powder into a large bowl. Add 1 tsp sugar, yeast mixture, 2 Tbsp vegetable oil, yogurt and egg. Mix all the ingredients together and form the dough into a ball. (I accidentally put in more sugar, may be 1 to 1 1/2 tsp more, and the bread turned out sweeter than it should be but me and N did not mine this sweeter version at all.)

Dust a little bit of flour on the work surface. Knead the ball of dough for 10 mins or more until it is smooth and satiny.

Put a little oil in a large bowl. Put the ball of dough in the bowl and coat it with the oil. Cover the dough with saran wrap. Set it aside in a draught-free area for 1 hour or until the dough is double in size.

Punch down the dough and knead it again for a few mins. Divide the dough into 6 equal balls. Work on one ball at a time and cover the rest with a damp towel. Roll the dough into a tear shaped naan.

Heat a little bit of oil (1/2 to 1 tsp) in a cast iron pan over medium high heat until the pan is hot but not smoking. The pan has to be hot enough to have the naan puff up. Put the naan on the pan and fry each side until it is golden brown, about 2 to 4 mins in total for both sides.