Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Chicken Tikka Masala and Naan

A week ago, my darling friend Christine discussed her love of Indian food (more specifically, Naan) over on her blog. I too share a deep love for Indian food and have been incredibly lucky to have enjoyed it all over the world (I think my favorite was at Taj Mahal de L'Ouest in Montreal). Dave and I even joke that we have tried so many different versions of our favorite dish, Chicken Tikka Masala, we could probably write a book on the regional differences of the dish.

For those of you not as familiar with Chicken Tikka Masala or Naan, I can describe them as a spicy tomato-based dish with marinated chicken served over rice (the former) and a version of flatbread similar to Pita (the latter). Before I had the kids, I think I made these two recipes every Sunday. So with all that practice, you better believe I've been able to develop what I think is a decent recipe for both Chicken Tikka Masala and Naan. My recipe falls more regionally in-line with what I have had in North America, so for all you Europeans and Asians out there hoping for an authentic representation, you'll find I've bastardized this a bit. I like spicy food, so read the cook's notes at the bottom of the recipe if you prefer a milder version.

So, without further adieu, here are my recipes for Naan and Chicken Tikka Masala.


Makes about 20 pieces

1 (.25oz) package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1 egg, beaten
2 teaspoons salt
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting)
1/4 cup butter, melted*

1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand for about 10 minutes, or until frothy. Stir in sugar, milk, egg and salt, and flour. Knead for six to eight minutes on a lightly floured surface. The dough will become smooth and pliable. Coat a large bowl with olive oil, place the dough inside and coat with oil, and cover with a damp cloth. Allow the dough to rise in a warm area until it has nearly doubled in size.

2. Punch down the dough. Pinch off golfball-sized pieces of dough and roll and tuck to form smooth orbs. Place on an oiled tray and cover with a damp cloth. Allow to rise in a warm area for about 30 minutes.

3. Heat a large, flat surface on the stove, and brush with melted butter.** On a lightly floured surface, roll each ball of dough out as thin as possible without tearing (you can also form with your hands, like shaping pizza dough). Place each piece of flattened dough onto the hot surface. Cook for approximately one to two minutes or until brown and air bubbles have formed. Flip the dough, cook for one minute, and remove from heat to cool.

*Technically, you should use ghee, which is a melted clarified butter that can be found in the baking aisle at your grocer, but simple microwave-melted butter does the trick.

**I use a Lodge cast iron griddle, but I think a large skillet or fry pan, or an electric griddle, would work well. You can try to broil and flip in the oven, but the results aren't quite the same.


Chicken Tikka Masala
Makes 6-8 servings

Marinade and Chicken*
1 cup plain yogurt
Juice of one lemon
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced and seeds removed
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground red pepper or chili paste**
2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 long piece of ginger root, minced, or 1 tablespoon ginger paste
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into one-inch cubes

1 tablespoon butter
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (28-oz) can tomato sauce
1 cup heavy cream****
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)

1. In a large dish or bowl, mix together all of the ingredients for the marinade. Add the chicken. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours (and up to overnight).

2. Heat a large skillet pan over medium-high heat. Add chicken (there will be a lot of marinade still on the chicken, this is perfectly fine). Cook chicken until no longer pink. Be sure not to overcook (all chicken should be cooked in less than 10 minutes).

3. Heat a large skillet pan (either remove the chicken from that skillet previously used, or start fresh with a new pan) over medium-high heat. Add butter and garlic. Cook garlic until it becomes soft. Reduce heat to medium. Add coriander, cumin, turmeric, paprika, chili powder, garam masala and salt. Toast all spices and seasonings in the pan with the garlic and butter until they develop a nutty aroma (about two minutes). Reduce heat to medium-low. Add tomato sauce and stir to incorporate all the spices. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add heavy cream and allow to simmer on low heat for five minutes. Add chicken. Allow chicken and sauce to simmer together for an additional five minutes. Serve over basmati or jasmine rice (I like to add peas to the rice) and top with cilantro.

*As mentioned, I like my Chicken Tikka Masala on the spicy side. If you are concerned with the heat, omit the jalapeno pepper and reduce red pepper/chili paste by half.

**I always keep chili paste and ginger paste in the refrigerator. You can buy in tubes in the produce section (with the rest of the herbs) relatively cheaply at your grocer. They are great for spontaneous bouts of Asian cooking.

***Again, if you are concerned with the level of heat of the sauce, omit the chili powder.

****To lighten the sauce, try whole milk in place of heavy cream.


This recipe is great to serve guests, as it makes a big batch. The sauce can be frozen until needed, and the Naan also freezes well. For those of you with confined cooking spaces and apartment dwellers, I would recommend making the Naan ahead of time and keeping it in a Ziploc bag in the freezer until needed. Simply reheat in the oven on a low setting, and keep an eye on it because it reheats quickly. Also, the sauce and chicken can be kept at a simmer while the rice is cooking to help reduce the amount of pots working on the stove at once.



Christine said...

Yum yum yum. I cannot WAIT to try your naan recipe, it seems the key is to cook it on the stove-top... I was mislead and baked mine and it didn't taste very naan-y at all. I also dig your helpful hints for "confined cooking spaces" :)

FriendlyBrown said...

Are you kidding me?! I LOVE Indian food. So... invite me over the next time you make this?

Daryl at Vermont Cottage said...

Thanks for posting this. I LOVE Indian food but have a hard time finding ingredients. And I always get stuck on ghee. Now I know! What a great thing to do this winter: learn to make Indian food ;).

Deanna (Silly Goose Farm) said...

Christine, it seems to me you can make/bake anything you're heart is set on. Well, actually, that applies to just about everything in your life, even skiing! You can do it, champ! :-)

FriendlyBrown, uh, I think you know you can just drive out to the farm anytime. I've got a box of wine with your name on it.

Daryl, because I cook with those spices a LOT, I buy them in bulk from an Indian specialty market in Albany. For what you'd pay in the grocery store, you can buy 10 times the amount at the Indian market. Perhaps the ghee will make it taste more authentic, but I'm happy with plain ol' butter.

Thanks for reading ladies!!

Nicole Jeannette said...

This looks delicious! I printed it out :)