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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Chicken Tikka Masala

Boy, I bet you were starting to wonder if I had bit the big one, huh? I tell you, it's kind of been feeling like I have! Whew. I even had to take a day "off" to get some much needed work done. I hate trying to teach day-by-day. I now at least know where I'm headed for the next month. But I still didn't get that stack of papers graded... again, the good news is that my husband and I still have to eat. Some nights are better than others. Tonight, despite the hubby getting home at a decent hour, I just wasn't up for cooking. In fact, I got about five minutes into trying and just had to switch gears and make nachos instead. That's my go-to gig for "I can't cook" nights.

The other evening, however, I decided to christen my new Weber charcoal grill. I love chicken tikka masala. I really enjoy a lot of other Indian dishes, but this one is my favorite. I try not to let it bother me too much that it really isn't Indian but a British adaptation. Either way, it's just darn good. It's a little more involved than some dishes because it requires marinating, grilling, and then finishing on the stove, but I think it's worth it.

You start with a tangy yogurt marinade. Mix together plain yogurt with cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, ginger, and lemon juice. Throw in your chunks of chicken breast and let sit in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. By the way... if anyone knows why Blogger randomly rotates pictures when you don't want them to and can explain it to me, I would be eternally grateful.

Soak some skewers in water for twenty minutes so they don't burn up while grilling. Start the grill and, meanwhile, skewer the chunks of chicken.

When the briquettes are nice and hot, throw on the skewers. You do not need to cook the chicken all the way through during this step. The purpose is to get some good flavor on that meat. You could actually, in a pinch, simply saute the chicken in a pan or broil it in the oven, but I really like the smokiness the grill imparts. I think it is crucial to the flavor of the end result.

Remove the chicken from the grill, let cool slightly, and remove from the skewers. Then, mince up some garlic and an Anaheim chili. You don't have to mince the chili. In fact, most Indian restaurants leave the pepper in larger pieces, but I'm somewhat anti-pepper, so I like my pieces small. Do whatever floats your dingy. By the way, if you like hot stuff, you can always substitute the relatively mild Anaheim with a jalapeno or other hot green pepper. You also will need a can of tomato sauce handy.

Cook the sauce ingredients together and then serve over Batsmati rice. I love those aromatic rices! Be sure to follow the rice packages directions as Batsmati rice typically takes less water than regular long-grain rices.

Chicken Tikka Masala
Yield: serves 2-3

1 cup plain yogurt
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp - 1 tsp ground cayenne
1 TBS fresh grated ginger
1 tsp salt
3 large boneless chicken breast cut into bite sized pieces

1 TBS butter
1 minced clove of garlic
1 minced Anaheim chili pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp paprika
1/2 to 1 tsp salt, to taste
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
2 cups light cream

Mix together the first group of ingredients in a medium-small bowl. Stir to coat the chicken, cover, and place in the refrigerator to marinate for a few hours.

When ready to start dinner, get the grill going first. While that heats up, skewer your chicken onto pre-soaked skewers. Do not pack the skewers too tightly with meat. Grill the skewers over high heat until the meat has some good color on it. The meat does not have to be cooked all the way through. Remove from the grill and let cool until you can handle them. Remove the chicken from the skewers.

In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter and then lightly saute the garlic and pepper together. Add the chicken and then the spices and tomato sauce. Stir completely. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the cream. You could use milk, but the texture and taste are just not quite right; I'd advise against it. Cook over low heat for 5-10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has thickened slightly. If the sauce is not quite as thick as you would like at this point, sprinkle a little flour through a strainer and stir in until it reaches the desired consistency. Serve over Batsmati or other aromatic rice.

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