I threw the Indian-themed dinner party in part because one of the guests I expected is a vegetarian and I wanted to have a robust main dish for him to enjoy (hence the vegetable curry).  But he didn’t even end up coming to the party – probably because he was at home reconsidering his inexplicable decision not to eat delicious, delicious meat.

Chicken tikka masala 1

Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken tikka, it turns out, exists as an independent entity quite apart from the creamy tomato masala sauce.  To make it, fire up your broiler.  While the broiler heats, trim the fat off two pounds of chicken breast meat. (I was able to pick up two one-pound packs of tenders for a mere $2 apiece, and since they were going to get cut up anyway, I sent a quick mental shout-out to Miss Janie Jones and dove on that cheap meat Homer Simpson-style.)

Dust the chicken with salt, cumin, coriander, and a pinch of cayenne.  Rub the spices into the meat, cover, and then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (60 is better).

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Meanwhile, mix up the yogurt sauce.  Take a cup of yogurt (I used Greek yogurt, which was amazingly rich and delicious, but any plain yogurt will do – I wouldn’t go lowfat, though, because thicker yogurt clings much better), and stir in grated ginger, a few pressed garlic cloves, and a Tablespoon of vegetable oil.

When the spices are set on the chicken, coat each piece in the yogurt sauce and then set them up on a rack over a baking sheet.

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Shove them under the broiler.  Timing is tricky; broilers are very individual, and although you want to get a nice char on the chicken, the line between “deliciously charred” and “smouldering black lump of kitchen FAIL” is a whisper-fine one.  Start checking at around 5 minutes, then check frequently.  Mine ended up being about 8:30 per side.  When they look like this:

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flip ’em.  I had to do two batches, because my broiler is tiny, but eventually, you will end up with a tasty-looking plate of chicken tikka, like so:

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In the process of checking to see if they’re done in the middle, you may perhaps get a little smidge of deliciousness on your finger and then lick it.  This will bring about a nigh-irresistible urge to nom up the whole plate of chicken on the spot and then call your guests and tell them you came down with violent food poisoning, so the party’s off.  Resist.  Set the chicken aside.

By the way, lining the baking sheet under the rack with foil is highly recommended.  The baking sheet looked like this when I was done:

Ick

Would you rather throw that away, or scrape it off?  …Thought so.

For the sauce, sautée a diced onion in 3 Tablespoons of oil for about 10 minutes or until golden and translucent.  Clear the center of the pan and add 2 Tablespoons of garam masala, as well as the garlic, ginger, and chiles, and a Tablespoon of tomato paste.

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Toast until the spices are fragrant, a minute or two, and then add a pinch of sugar and a large can of crushed tomatoes.  I’m a moran and bought the kind with basil pre-added, so I was prepared to flavor-correct at the end, but it actually tasted just fine.  Cover the sauce, drop the heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes to develop the flavor.

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While the sauce is simmering, cut up your awesome chicken tikka.

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Hey, remember how good you were about not eating it even though you seriously wanted to back when you pulled it out of the oven?  Now your patience is rewarded.  See that all these spicy salty tangy flavorful little leftover chicken bits are disposed of responsibly, won’t you?

Chicken bits

Once your sauce is done simmering, stir in the chicken, as well as 2/3 cup of heavy cream and a handful of cilantro.

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Taste for salt and adjust the seasoning accordingly.  Serve over basmati rice with condiments (again, I went with Vidalia onion relish and cilantro chutney), and naan.  Wonder why on earth anyone would ever go vegetarian.  Thank you, chickens, for being a delicious animal!

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