Friday, June 27, 2014

Chicken Tikka Masala

After college and before starting my career, I taught High School in Tajung Malim, Malaysia. To get used to such a different culture I stayed with an Indian family my first few weeks there. This was one of the first dishes they prepared for me and I remember it distinctly because at the time I didn't eat meat. I felt really bad not wanting to eat it and did not want to be ungrateful in a town where the average monthly income was less than most of us make in a day. My "family" wasn't poor per se, but for the normally vegetarian family to buy chicken was a big expense in my honor. I ate the tomatoes and the rice, but now looking back REALLY wish I had tried their version cooked in the traditional tandoor oven (basically a clay pot.) Below is a picture of me with some of my students.

Tikka Masala, in general, involves a spicy, tomato based sauce, cream, some type of protein marinated in yogurt, and spices like cinnamon and cumin. It is also really easy to freeze. If you are in the midst of a food prep, or feeding just you, freeze half or double the recipe while you have the ingredients out and freeze half. If you can find boxed tomatoes use them, saves you some can opening and they are tasty! They are usually 26.5 oz and found next to the canned tomatoes... replace the tomatoes and paste in this recipe if you find them.
I know rice isn't Paleo but I ate this over rice.  I needed to stretch a buck and I also have been running a lot more on top of going to the box so I wanted some extra, gluten-free carbs in my diet. I also used a skillet instead of my dutch oven... not sure why?! So use your dutch oven. :)

Chicken Tikka Masala

(Printable Version)

- 1.5 lbs Chicken (thighs or breast), cut into 1" cubes
- 2 Tbsp Oil or fat
- 3 tsp Salt
- 1/4 tsp Black Pepper
- 1 tsp Cumin
- 1/2 Small Onion, finely chopped
- 2 Garlic Cloves, minced
- 1 Tbsp Fresh Ginger, minced
- 1 Serrano Chili, minced (this is a long, green chili, if you can't find it pick another chili that's comparable, like a jalapeƱo) ** Take out the seeds and membrane if you are sensitive to heat
- 1 1/2 tsp Garam Masala (Usually cumin, coriander, cardamon, pepper, cloves, nutmeg)
- 1 tsp Cinnamon (optional)
- 1/2 Cup Low-Sodium, or unsalted Chicken Stock
- 1/4 Cup Coconut Milk, full fat
- 1 (28 oz) Can Crushed Tomatoes
- 2 Tbsp Tomato Paste
- Fresh Cilantro (optional)

1. Sprinkle the Chicken with 1 tsp of Salt, the pepper, and cumin. In a dutch oven or skillet over medium-high heat, heat a tablespoon of oil of your choice and saute the chicken until browned, remove from pan.
I always remove my chicken and put it in the container I will be storing the food in later, saves on dishes!

2. Add the other tablespoon of oil and add the onion, garlic, ginger, and chili. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes. 

3. Add the Garam Masala and cinnamon and cook 1 more minute before adding the stock, milk, and tomatoes. Scrape the bottom of the pan to dislodge any "bits" and bring to a boil for about 2 minutes stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the chicken back in. Cook another 10 minutes. Serve over cauliflower rice, brown rice, or eat it plain... enjoy!

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