Chicken tikka masala is justly one of the most popular Indian dishes in the US. It is very flavorful and uses a boatload of spices, but is not really chili hot, so it can appeal to a wide audience. This recipe is adopted from Serious Eats and has an extra level of flavor from grilling the chicken before finishing it in the sauce. I ate this with the naan which was the subject of another post.
5 lbs. bone in chicken drumsticks (or other chicken parts)
3 Tbs. ground cumin
3 Tbs. paprika
2 Tbs. ground coriander seed
2 tsp. ground turmeric
1 tsp cayenne pepper
12 cloves garlic, finely chopped – divided
3 Tbs. grated fresh ginger – divided
2 cups whole milk plain yogurt
¾ cup fresh lemon juice (from 4-6 lemons) – divided
4 Tbs. butter
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 (28 oz.) can of whole peeled tomatoes, roughly crushed
½ cup roughly chopped cilantro (can be left out if dining with cilantro haters)
1 cup heavy cream
Score the chicken pieces with a sharp knife and put them in 1 or 2 gallon zip lock baggies.
Mix together the cumin, paprika, coriander, turmeric, and cayenne in a small bowl. Reserve 3 Tbs. of the spice mixture and put the rest into a larger bowl. In this larger bowl also add 2/3 of the garlic. 2/3 of the ginger, 2/3 of the lemon juice, all of the yogurt, and ¼ cup of the kosher salt. Mix well. Pour into the zip lock baggies and mix with the chicken until all the surfaces are coated. Put in the refrigerator to marinade for 4-8 hours. Do not marinade for longer than 8 hours because the acid in the yogurt and lemon juice will eventually make the chicken turn mushy.
While the chicken is marinating, made the sauce. Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat and then add the remaining onions, garlic, and ginger. Cook until the aromatics are browning in places, stirring frequently to ensure that they do not burn. Add the reserved spice mixture and fry until it becomes fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and half of the cilantro (if using), stirring up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Simmer for 15 minutes and then puree into a smooth sauce. An immersion blender works very well for this.
Stir in the cream and the remaining lemon juice, and season to taste. Set aside.
Start a barbeque grill. Remove the chicken from the marinade and wipe off the marinade. Grill the chicken over medium-high heat until well charred on one side (5-7 minutes), and then turn to the other side, grilling it until also well charred (4-5 minutes). The chicken will not be cooked through, which is OK since it will finish in the sauce.
Remove the partially cooked chicken from the grill. Use a knife to cut the meat off of the bones and into 1-inch chunks. Bring the sauce back to a simmer, and simmer the chicken chunks in the sauce until fully cooked, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining cilantro (if using). Serve hot with naan or rice.