I have to admit to a bit of an addiction to Chicken Tikka Masala. Its creamy, savory, spicy (did I mention the cream?) flavor truly wows my tastebuds, and I order the dish pretty much every time I go out for Indian food. But according to most accounts, this dish isn’t authentic Indian cuisine at all—it was invented in Great Britain, perhaps even Scotland. (See here for a fascinating history of the dish.) A few years ago, the British Foreign Secretary even declared Chicken Tikka Masala to be the national dish of Great Britain.
“Tikka” refers to the bite-size morsels the chicken is cut into (as opposed to the bone-in leg and thigh pieces traditionally roasted in Tandoor ovens). And “masala” simply means “spice” in Hindi, and is the word commonly used to refer to blends of spices used in cooking. The masala in this case is the spice-flavored sauce.
Because of my love of this Anglo-Indian dish, I was excited to see a recipe for it using leftover Thanksgiving turkey in the New York Times a couple weeks back. (The recipe is here.) So I made it.
my end result, served with rice, cucumber raita, and chutney
Now, not many of you probably still have turkey left over from the holiday, but perhaps you froze some. If not, leftover roast chicken (or one of those grocery store rotisserie birds) will work just as well.
The first thing to do is cut up your cooked turkey or chicken into 1” cubes (4 cups of meat), and get it marinating. Here is my turkey, along with the mortar and pestle I use to crush spices I’ve roasted in a small cast iron skillet.
cubed turkey and coriander seeds
Mix together your spices in a medium sized bowl: 2 t each, garam masala, ground coriander, ground cumin; 1 T paprika or chili powder; 4 t turmeric or curry powder; 1 t salt; 6 med. garlic cloves, crushed; and 4 t finely-chopped ginger:
Then blend the spices with 1 cup yogurt, toss it with the cubed meat, cover and let chill for at least 4 hours, or overnight:
Next, prepare the sauce. Sauté a thinly-sliced large onion in 3 T vegetable oil along with more spices: 6 crushed cardamom pods, 1 bay leaf, ½ t red pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt.
Cook the onion mixture over medium heat, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t burn, until brown and soft, about 10 minutes. Then, make a space in the middle of the pan, add another T of oil and let it get hot, then toss in 4 cloves crushed garlic, 2 T finely-chopped ginger, and 2 finely-chopped serrano chili peppers (I omitted the peppers, because Robin doesn’t do spicy food):
Let the garlic and ginger sizzle (like Paris, in the summer) for a few seconds and then mix it into the onions. Now add 2 T tomato paste and a large can (28 oz.) of tomatoes along with its juice (crush them with your hands, first):
Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the liquid is mostly gone. Now it’s time for the cream! Hurrah! Pour in 2 cups heavy cream (yum!),
and then add ¾ cup coarsely-chopped cilantro. (Be sure to save some sprigs for the garnish.)
Season to taste with more salt, if needed (the recipe calls for 1½ t salt here, but if your bird was brined or salted, be careful how much you add), and then simmer the sauce over low heat, stirring occasionally, till it thickens—about 40 minutes.
Let it cool down, discard the bay leaf, and then blend the sauce. A hand-held mixer (the kind you stick into the pot) is best, but it can also be done in batches in a regular blender.
all blended and smooth
Broil the Turkey/Chicken
Now for the finish: Line a large roasting pan with foil and lay the turkey pieces in a single layer upon it. (Add any remaining marinade in the bowl to the sauce. Since you’re using pre-cooked poultry, no worries about salmonella!)
Broil on high until the turkey starts to blacken in spots. (Keep an eye on it, as it can go from perfect to burnt-to-a-crisp in a flash!) No need to turn the meat over, though you may need to rotate the roasting pan once.
Dump the broiled meat into the sauce and reheat it till warmed through. Add the juice of one lemon and stir into sauce. Serve over steamed rice with cilantro garnish. (See photo at top of post for my results.)
This may all seem like a lot of work—and Indian food, though not complicated to make, can be labor intensive—but this recipe made enough for three meals for Robin and me. Gonna make it again, for sure!