OK, so let me start by saying that if you happen to go to India and order 'Chicken Tikka Masala' (CTM) and the waitstaff says 'huh? come again?' don't start bawling. No, it is not a prank. No, you don't have to book your tickets back. It is just that there is no such thing as CTM in India. What you do have is a dish called Murgh (Chicken) Makhani, or Butter Chicken. Are they exactly the same? Well, that depends. CTM in most decent curry houses in the UK tastes very much like the Chicken Makhani you get in India. What we typically get in the US is an inferior rendition of the CTM they make in the UK. Sorry folks! Didn't mean to break your heart. If you want to get really good CTM, get on a plane to the UK or India, or better yet, just make it yourself at home. Want to know more about the history of CTM? Check it out here.
I have played around with many different recipes for CTM over the years. Some I have liked, some I have just not liked, and some I have been so-so about. But dear friends, I think I hit the jackpot with this one. Myself and J think this is the best recipe yet for CTM. If you have a better one, please do share. I'd love to try it out. Maybe there is room in the CTM world for more than one 'best' recipe...
Now, for all the talk of authenticity, I am guessing that some of you probably like the americanized version of CTM. I guess that's ok (not really, though :-)). In any case, if you fall under that category (please don't confirm my fears), my suggestion is to add more cream and leave out the fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi). There you go! Now that should taste like the
crap stuff you are used to in most Indian restaurants in the US of A. But I implore you. Just give this version a try and tell me -- do you really really miss all that extra cream in there?
One more thing. How do you get that lovely red color? Nope, it is not food coloring. Run to your local Indian grocery store and buy some Kashmiri chili powder or Deggi Mirch. If you don't have access to these, go ahead use regular chili powder. Your curry will look a bit orange-yellow instead of a brilliant red, but no sweat.
Chicken Makhani/ Chicken Tikka Masala
Adapted from Sanjeev Kapoor
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (preferably organic)
2 tbsp butter (for basting)
1/2 cup full-fat yogurt
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp ginger-garlic paste*
1/4 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp kashmiri (or deggi) chili powder
1 tbsp mustard oil (you can use any vegetable oil instead)
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
1 tsp chopped green chilis
1 1/2 tsp kashmiri (or deggi) chili powder
1 tbsp salt
1 large black cardamom pod (bada elaichi)
2 cinnamon sticks
1 cup tomato sauce
1/2 tsp garam masala powder
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp dried fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi)
1/2 cup half and half (you can use cream too)
Chopped cilantro (for garnish)
* I use fresh ginger and garlic (1:1 proportion). Make a fine paste and freeze flat in a ziploc bag. Use as needed. If you make this fresh, make sure you make a nice paste, you don't want chunks here.
1. Cut the chicken into 1-inch chunks. Mix all the marinade ingredients together. Apply to chicken pieces. Refrigerate 3 to 4 hours.
2. Grill the chicken (I did mine indoors in my trusted ridged grill pan) for 2 minutes on one side till you see nice grill marks. Turn onto other side and grill 2 minutes longer. You might need to do this in two batches. Baste the chicken with the butter and set aside. You don't need to worry if the chicken is cooked all the way through, as it will simmer in the gravy later.
3. Making the gravy/masala: Heat the butter and oil in a saucepan. Add the elaichi (cardamom) and cinnamon sticks. Then add the ginger-garlic paste and chopped green chilis. Cook 2 minutes. Add the garam masala, chili powder, and salt. Cook another minute. Then add the tomato paste and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 10 - 15 minutes. The liquid should reduce and you should be left with a thick gravy. If yours is still watery, increase the heat and let some liquid evaporate.
4. Add the sugar and the kasoori methi (fenugreek). Cook 2 - 3 minutes more. Add the cooked chicken pieces. Simmer on low heat for 5 - 10 minutes. Add the half and half or cream (be careful. do not boil after adding the cream, or it will curdle).
5. Garnish with cilantro and serve hot with naan or paratha.