Chicken Tikka Masala

When we lived in Santa Barbara, we loved to go to The Flavor of India restaurant for their lunch buffet. They unquestionably had the best Indian food in town and always won the Best of Santa Barbara. Now that we are in Medford, we are having trouble finding a really good Indian restaurant. I think we were spoiled in Santa Barbara. At the Flavor of India, one of the dishes they would have on the buffet was Chicken Tikka Masala. Laura just loved it. So last night I thought I would give her a treat and make some and have it along with some basmati rice and naan from Trader Joes. It turned out very well.

Ingredients:

For Marinade:
2 large boneless and skinless chicken thighs cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon ginger
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon gochugaru (or red pepper flakes)
1 teaspoon salt

For Sauce:
2 tablespoons vegetable/canola oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 small onions (or 1 large onion) finely diced
1 1/2 tablespoons garlic finely grated
1 tablespoon ginger finely grated
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
14 oz tomato sauce
1 teaspoon gochugaru
1 teaspoon cayanne pepper (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon salt
1 14 ounce can coconut cream
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/4 cup water if needed
4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

Method:

1. In a bowl, combine chicken with all of the ingredients for the chicken marinade; let marinate for 10 minutes to an hour (or overnight if time allows).

2. Heat oil in a large skillet or pot over medium-high heat. When sizzling, add chicken pieces in batches of two or three, making sure not to crowd the pan. Fry until browned for only 3 minutes on each side. Set aside and keep warm. (You will finish cooking the chicken in the sauce.)

3. Melt the butter in the same pan. Fry the onions until soft (about 3 minutes) while scraping up any browned bits stuck on the bottom of the pan.

4. Add garlic and ginger and sauté for 1 minute until fragrant, then add garam masala, cumin, turmeric and coriander. Fry for about 20 seconds until fragrant, while stirring occasionally.

5. Pour in the tomato puree, chili powders and salt. Let simmer for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until sauce thickens and becomes a deep brown red color.

6. Stir the coconut cream and sugar through the sauce. Add the chicken and its juices back into the pan and cook for an additional 8-10 minutes until chicken is cooked through and the sauce is thick and bubbling. Pour in the water to thin out the sauce, if needed.

7. Garnish with cilantro (coriander) and serve with fresh, hot basmati rice and naan.

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