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Chicken Tikka Masala

Some of my closest friends in high school were Indian, introducing me to wonderful things like naan, chicken masala, samosas, and numerous other foods whose names I can’t pronounce.  Usually if we ate out at an Indian restaurant, my friends would help me order, moving past the Americanized chicken-satay-on-a-skewer to more authentic dishes.  Birthday parties and graduation parties hosted by these girls centered around lively Bollywood-type music,  intricate dance steps, lively conversation, and of course, tons and tons of delicious Indian food.  Maybe that’s why, all these years later, I still get cravings for Indian food.

I found this great recipe for chicken tikka masala on allrecipes.com.  What I love about this recipe, besides the fact that the finished product is delish, is that its very straightforward.  It does take a while to make due to the marinating and cooking time, but work-wise, its very easy, leaving ample time to prepare the rest of the meal.  I’ve modified it slightly to cook it entirely on the stove-top as I’m too lazy to bust out the grill.  Be warned, this dish does have some kick.  If you don’t like spicy food, you may want to either leave out the jalapeno or decrease the amount of cayenne pepper used.  I left it as is, and the dish had a nice kick to it.  Hubby gave this meal a 9/10, high praise!  :)

Chicken Tikka Masala, adapted from allrecipes.com

1 c. plain low-fat yogurt
1 T. lemon juice
4 t. ground cumin, divided
1 t. ground cinnamon
2 t. cayenne pepper
2 t. coarse ground black pepper
1 t. ground ginger
4 t. kosher salt, divided
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1 T. butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 large jalapeno pepper, finely chopped (be sure to discard the seeds and white inner membrane!)
2 t. paprika
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1 c. heavy whipping cream
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped

In a large bowl, blend together 2 teaspoons cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, black pepper, ginger and 2 teaspoons kosher salt.  Mix in the yogurt and lemon juice until spices are well incorporated.  Add the chicken and mix well, so that the chicken is well-covered with the marinade.  Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

In a medium-sized skillet, melt the butter over medium-heat.  Add the garlic and jalapeno, stir-frying until the garlic is lightly toasted.  Season with the remaining 2 teaspoons cumin, paprika and 2 teaspoons kosher salt.  Stir in the tomato sauce and cream.  Add in the chicken, along with the marinade*, mixing thoroughly to ensure all ingredients are well incorporated.  Simmer over low heat for approximately 25 minutes, until sauce thickens, stirring occasionally.  Stir in the chopped cilantro, reserving a small amount of chopped cilantro for garnish, and simmer an additional 5 minutes.  Transfer to a serving platter, garnish with the remaining cilantro, and serve over steamed rice.

Serves 4.