Not to toot my own horn or anything, but if you blindfolded me and fed me this dish, I might mistake it for a dish straight out of a proper restaurant. I swear, I have not an ounce of bias towards my own cooking.
I've made curries before, but I think this might be the best yet. It might have something to do with the fact that I made the curry paste from scratch instead of using a store-bought variety, or the fact that I actually threw the sauce in the blender so there weren't any chunks of onions (not that I dislike a little texture, but it has its place). Whatever it was, this.dish.is.awesome. Awesomesauce, if you will.
Spicy, bright, tangy and stick-to-your-bones filling, I'm really thankful I decided this would be my lunch this week.
I also have a hard time believing I enjoyed this fabulous dish while the Boyfriend enjoyed, um, raw pizza dough for dinner. To each their own.
*Sidenote: the Boyfriend would like me to acknowledge the fact that he was suuuuuch a good boyfriend and went to the store for oil and cumin seeds at 4:30 on a Sunday (his least favorite time ever) for me. There, now we're even.*
Chicken Tikka Masala (serves 6-8), adapted from Curry Lover's Cookbook
For the tikka paste (if you so choose - otherwise you can find it at the store)
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
1 1/2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon dried mint
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2/3 cup red wine vinegar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons water
(Optional - a few drops each of red and yellow food coloring, to brighten the color)
In a small pan over medium-high heat, toast cumin and coriander seeds until they're fragrant, about a minute (they'll start to darken). Keep a close eye on these, and stir almost constantly. Transfer toasted seeds to a spice grinder or food processor, and grind to a powder. In a small bowl, mix together all of the dry spices. Once well mixed, add water, lemon juice, and vinegar (and food coloring if you're using it) and stir until it forms a loose paste. In a large pan over medium heat, heat oil and add paste. Saute the paste until it brightens in color and the oil starts to separate back out (it will also have taken on a reddish color at this point, instead of the usual yellow), about 10 minutes. Allow the paste to cool and then store in an airtight container. This paste will keep for 3-4 weeks in the refrigerator (and you'll only use about 1/8 of it for this recipe).
For the Chicken
2 large chicken breasts, cut into 1" cubes
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1" cubes (optional - I like extra veggies in my dishes)
6 tablespoons tikka masala paste
4 tablespoons (about 1/4 cup) plain yogurt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 fresh chilli, chopped (I used a jalapeno)
1" fresh ginger, grated
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon almonds, ground
1 cup water
3 tablespoons butter (I think this could be omitted if you want)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
fresh cilantro, to garnish
Mix together yogurt and half of the tikka paste in a bowl large enough to hold chicken and eggplant. Toss chicken and eggplant in the sauce until everything is well-coated, and set aside to marinade. In a large saucepan or wok, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions, chillies, garlic and ginger, and saute for 5 minutes or until the onion softens. Add the other half of the tikka paste and saute for two more minutes. Stir in tomato paste, almonds and water and simmer for 15 minutes. Transfer to a blender and puree, adding in heavy cream and lemon juice.
After removing sauce from the pan, melt butter if you're using it (if not, you probably don't need anything extra in the pan since there's oil in...everything). Add chicken and eggplant, and cook over medium heat until the chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Add curry sauce to the pan and simmer for at least 5 more minutes to reduce the sauce a bit. Serve with rice or naan (I served with quinoa).
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