I find it is a bit intimidating to use new spices, but my curiosity about food tends to drive me over that fear. And I'm always pleasantly surprised to find that most dishes, the world over, contain plenty of familiar ingredients. The "base" for this dish could be the same as any number of Mexican or Italian dishes you may have made before. The only thing that may be new to you about it is the garam masala spice, which is available in most grocery stores now.
Give it a shot -- if you like warm, medium-heat dishes like chili with seasoning that is a bit more complex in flavor, you'll like tikka masala. I've changed and simplified a few things from the recipe I have, and the following recipe reflects my changes.
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 2 T. lemon juice
- 2 tsp. mediterranean seasoning, or just 2 tsp. cumin, and 2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. ginger
- 1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into strips or large cubes
- 1 T. butter
- 2 T. flour
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 jalapeño chili, minced
- 2 tsp. ground coriander
- 1 tsp. each: ground cumin, paprika, garam masala spice
- ½ tsp. salt
- 1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
- 1 ½ cups fat-free half-and-half
- ½ cups chopped cilantro
Combine everything on the "marinade" list, including the chicken. Marinate in a plastic Ziploc gallon bag in the fridge for at least 2 hours (overnight is better.)
If you have a grill pan like I do, you can just grill the chicken on it directly. If you have a charcoal grill, thread the chicken onto skewers first (tastes better is you got the coals). My recommendation, either way, is to only partially cook the chicken. It goes into the sauce and will cook the rest of the way. If you thoroughly cook the chicken first, you will probably find it a bit dry after it goes in the sauce. I know it is a little creepy purposefully undercooking chicken, but trust me, it will fully cook in about a minute in the sauce.
Set the lightly grilled chicken aside on a plate (don't re-use the plate, just wash it later), and make the sauce. Melt the butter and flour in a large deep skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and jalapeño, and stir for a minute. Stir in the seasonings, and salt. Combine the tomato sauce, and stir for one minute. Add the fat-free half-and-half, and simmer until the sauce thickens.
Add the chicken to the sauce (remove it from the skewers if you did this) and let simmer for a couple of moments. If you want to be sure that it is cooked, just take one of the thicker pieces out and cut into it. Don't overcook it.
I like to serve this over egg noodles with the cilantro over the top, but I think it would also be good with potatoes and peas. With the fat-free half-and-half instead of cream, it is really a healthy dish, and if you do the marinade the night before, it is also pretty quick. I served it with avocado slices with lemon, salt and pepper once -- and now I consider this to be a must-have accompaniment!