I’ve been practicing with the new mortar and pestle making spice blends and ended up spending time tinkering with Indian garlic/ginger pastes and blends. Which lead me back to my old favorite Tandoori Chicken.
But that is not where I ended up. My focus was on Chicken Tikka Masala, which begins with chicken pieces marinated in a spicy yogurt blend. They are frequently skewered for easy searing in the famed tandoori oven. These morsels are then added to a creamy curried tomato sauce.
It seemed to me that the old Tandoori Chicken yogurt marinade would suffice nicely. I wanted to keep this simple, seriously. I would eliminate the grilling portion and pan sear the chicken pieces, since there is so much going on here.
I’d been thinking about this for several days. Yesterday I prepped boneless skinless thighs and cut them into large bite-size strips for fast cooking. The yogurt marinade is straight forward. Many recipes include yellow and red food dye which just doesn’t work for me. I sometimes opt for turmeric and red chilies, but mostly there is plenty of garlic and ginger supported by cumin, coriander and such.
On this occasion, Happiness is… bashing a garlic and ginger spice blend in the mortar and pestle in the blink of an eye.
Today I pulled out the Instant Pot and got going. First I knocked out a batch of basmati rice, which only takes 6 minutes. Then, another Happiness Experience: more garlic and ginger bashed with spices for the Masala Sauce.
Turns out, the marinated chicken sautés up nicely when the Instant Pot is cranked up as hot as it will go. The yogurt firms up and all the spices help in the browning process. This all needs to be done in small batches for successful searing… then set aside for the Masala sauce.
In the same pot, an onion sauté starts things off, its moisture releases the browned bits in the pan. The spice paste is added next and stirred until aromatic. So fresh is this past, it literally blooms in the pan. The tomato base is then added and it simmers briefly to bring the flavors together. After 10 minutes I pull out the immersion blender to puree any odd chunks but keep a little texture.
A cream layer is added to round out the sauce and tame it just a bit. Finally, the tandoori chicken pieces are dropped in for a brief simmer—only long enough to finish cooking them—but still retain their unique tandoori flavor and not lose it to the sauce.
Served over basmati rice, this makes one heck of a dish. A little homemade cranberry ginger chutney spooned on the side sends it right over the top.
Today, Happiness is… two recipes: Chicken Tandoori (not previously posted, clearly an oversight) and Chicken Tikka Masala (incomplete without it).
2 pounds chicken thighs/legs, skin optional
3 cloves garlic, mash & mince
2 Tbsp ginger, grate
1 tsp each turmeric, coriander, cumin, salt
1 Tbsp paprika + ½ tsp cayenne
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 cup plain yogurt
1 Tbsp oil for brushing grill and chicken
- Place chicken in zip lock bag.
- Marinade: Make garlic-ginger paste in mortar and pestle, add the spices and blend well. Combine blend with the lemon juice and yogurt. Pour over the chicken, marinate up to 24 hours.
- To grill: brush grill and chicken with oil, cook over hot coals, 4 minutes per side, turning as needed until seared and blistered, about 30 minutes. (Internal temperature 160-165°F.) Makes 4 servings.
Chicken Tikka Masala
1 recipe marinated Tandoori Chicken: boneless pieces cut into strips, room temperature
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 onion, chop
3 cloves garlic, mash & mince
2 tsp ginger, grate
1 tsp each cumin, coriander, turmeric, red chile flakes, and salt
14 ounces crushed tomatoes
8 ounces tomato sauce
¾-1 cup cream, full-fat coconut milk, or evaporated milk
2 tsp garam masala (optional)
- Sear chicken: heat large pot to medium high with 2 Tbsp oil (multicooker: Sauté/Hi). Sear chicken 3 minutes per side in batches, don’t overcrowd. Remove to holding plate.
- For Sauce: reduce heat to medium-high (multicooker: Saute/Medium). Add onion, sauté to soften while scraping up browned bits in pan. Make garlic-ginger paste in mortar and pestle, add the spices and blend together. Stir the blend into the pot until aromatic, 2-3 minutes.
- Reduce heat, add tomato products, thin with water if quite thick, simmer 10 minutes. Puree if desired.
- Stir in the cream, garam masala, and chicken, simmer 10-15 minutes. Adjust seasoning and serve with basmati rice, sprinkle with cilantro. Serves 4-6.