First things first- Happy New Year!
Dave and I spent the holidays back east, first with my family back in Michigan, then with his family back in Pennsylvania. We managed a quick trip to DC for a “romantic” New Year’s Eve celebration at an Ethiopian Restaurant followed by a stop at Georgetown Cupcake followed by a trip to the liquor store to pick up 2 beers.
(Wow I just realized how #classy we are not). If anyone else did something less gas-producing and more, you know, normal, feel free to chime in. I think we need tips for next year 😉My recipe-inspiration has been low since coming back to California, but fortunately for me a reader reached out to me and began asking questions about my long-ago posted Chicken Tikka Masala recipe. He wanted to know some details about spices and flavor profile, but then he asked the all important question “have you altered this recipe since it was posted to improve it at all?”
And I realized that… 1) No… I have not… And 2) I began really craving some amazing tikka masala and thus began an endeavor to create an even better recipe than before.
So what we have here is my tikka masala recipe v.2.0 which cuts down on marinade time, removes excessive spice grinding, (and inappropriate color saturation), and still kills it with amazing flavor.
In actuality, this recipe might be my best tikka masala to date.You wouldn’t think that delicious Tikka Masala would be so elusive, but it’s really hard to find a good recipe. And believe you me, I have tried numerous bad recipes out there before figuring out some key points.
#1 – Good Spices.
You must have good and fresh spices. I highly recommend getting spices at your local Indian market if you can. And if you can grind them fresh that will ensure they are top notch.
But sometimes life happens and we don’t have time for spice grinding (or a reliable garam masala recipe).
So that leaves us with making sense of all the pre-ground spices at the Indian Market. Hello complete overwhelm!
To hopefully make it a bit more digestible, these are the current brands that I have in my cupboard that I used for this recipe.
Disclosure: some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that if you click through the link and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. This helps me continue to provide delicious and free content on The Gourmet Gourmand.
- Zyka Kashmiri Chili Powder
- Laxmi Garam Masala
- Flower Brand Fenugreek Powder (which seems hard to locate online, so another reputable brand is Rani).
- Badshah Kasuri Methi
(Disclaimer- this is not a guarantee that these are the absolute best, but I did use these brands and the recipe worked well).
#2 Which spices.
It’s always a bit of a crap-shoot when making Indian recipes, especially for a beginner who doesn’t know the spice profiles in and out.
What I’ve determined is that the Tikka Masala trifecta is: Kashmiri Chili Powder – Garam Masala – Fenugreek.
And fenugreek is probably the one spice that most people are unfamiliar with and it’s kind of frustratingly hard to describe. It imparts a distinct flavor and you’ll know it once you taste it (assuming you’ve had Indian food in the past). It’s slightly sweet, slightly bitter, maybe a bit maple-y… it’s hard to pinpoint, but it is necessary.
It also is confusing because it’s called a variety of things. Fenugreek is the herb. Dried it can be called either fenugreek or kasuri methi, and the seeds are either referred to as methi or fenugreek seeds.
All good cooking, and possibly Indian cooking in particular, is an effort to balance the salt-sweet-and sour flavors. I included my ratios in the recipe which include 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon amchoor (dried mango powder which is very sour), and 1 tablespoon of sugar.
Now, depending on your personal preference and how much sour or sweetness your batch of tomatoes have, just know that you might need to adjust my ratios for your personal preference.
Don’t be scared of salt if you want it to taste like a restaurant. Indian restaurants are extremely generous with their salt (ever notice how you gain 5lbs of water weight after every Indian restaurant meal?). The salt brings out the flavors of the spices and tomatoes and makes it all umami-ish and perfect.Well that’s all I’ve got for this post dear readers. And just know…if you send me a lengthy list of questions about a recipe, you might just end up with a reworked and improved version of said recipe posted a few days later 😉
Chicken Tikka Masala
_For the marinade_
- 2 chicken breasts cubed
- 2 chicken thighs cubed
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon garlic paste
- 1 tablespoon ginger paste
- 3/4 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 2 teaspoons kashmiri chili powder
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt
_For the masala_
- 1/2 large onion diced
- 8 roma tomatoes roughly chopped about 1 lb
- 1/4 cup roughly chopped cashews
- 1 cup water
- 1 teaspoon ginger paste
- 1 tablespoon garlic paste
- 2 tablespoons kashmiri chili powder
- 1 teaspoon amchoor powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek powder
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
To marinate the chicken
- Combine all ingredients for marinade in a glass or other non-reactive marinating dish. Mix well. Add chicken pieces and stir thoroughly to cover all the chicken with the marinade.
- Cover and refrigerate for 2-6 hours.
To bake the chicken
- Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
- Place chicken pieces on a lipped baking sheet (may need to use 2 sheets). Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.
To make the masala
- In a large skillet add a tablepoon or 2 of vegetable oil and turn heat to medium high. Add chopped onion and sweat the onion until just translucent.
- Add tomatoes and cashews and saute for 1 minute more.
- Add water, ginger paste, garlic paste, chili powder, amchoor, salt and sugar.
- Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes. This will cook out the raw flavor of the tomatoes and create a mushy puree.
- Remove from heat. Pour tomato mixture into a blender and blend until completely pureed. (Note- the cashews are pureed to help thicken and make a creamier sauce).
- Return sauce to the original pot by pouring through a fine mesh sieve, using a plastic spatula to press through the solids. Discard the solids (seeds and skin).
- Turn stove back to medium heat and bring sauce back to a simmer.
- Melt in the butter and stir in the cream. Feel free to add water if the texture of your sauce is too thick or you need more volume.. don't worry if you add a little too much, you can always reduce it back down (I added about 3/4 cup additional water to mine, but it will depend on how much water you've lost as you've cooked it).
- Finally, stir in the garam masala and the fenugreek powder.
- Stir in the cooked chicken.
- Garnish optionally with kasuri methi (also known as dried fenugreek leaves), crushed cashews, and a drizzle of cream.
- Serve immediately with basmati rice or naan.