There is a couple that Ashley and I love to hang out with, who frankly dislike things so near and dear to my heart, it's almost painful. For one, they don’t eat cheese...CHEESE! Seriously, I almost called game over on the friendship over that one. They won’t eat pork either. So to be clear…there is no cheese and no bacon, no pizza, no queso and yet I still choose to be friends with them. I seriously think someone should nominate me for sainthood at this point.

                However, what they do like is flavor! And by special request months ago they asked me to make a dish called Chicken Tikka Masala. I’ll admit I was challenged to expand my cuisine, and frankly with all the spices this dish calls for I was sure it was going to break the bank. But I looked a little closer, and most of these spices I had in my pantry already, I’d just never used them in this combination or quantity. This dish is packed with earthy warm flavors that can be cranked up to smack you in the face spicy, or kept mellow to just lightly say hello on the tongue. Thanks to them, this dish is a staple in The Kentucky Kitchen.

The first time I made this dish I believe I had all of these spices on hand except Turmeric. And to be honest, I’ve made this dish without one or two of the spices listed below and it’s still good! Don’t let this spice list scare you away.

 

Chicken Tikka Masala

Serves 4        Approx Cooking Time:2-3 Hours  (Most of this is simply simmering on the stove)

2 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts Cubed

1 Cup plain yogurt

Juice from one lemon

A finger of fresh ginger skinned and minced

2 Tbsp Poultry Seasoning

2 Tbsp Black Pepper

2 Tbsp Onion Powder

2 Tbsp Paprika

1 Tbsp All spice

2 Tbsp Cinnamon

2 Tbsp Cumin

1 Tbsp Turmeric

1 Tbsp Cayenne Pepper

2 Tbsp Butter

2 Tbsp Olive Oil

1 Medium Onion diced

1 Jalapeno diced

2 Cloves Garlic minced

15 oz Tomato Sauce

1 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream

Salt to taste

                 Cube the chicken into bite sized pieces and place in a large bowl. Add the yogurt, lemon juice and fresh ginger. Add half of the spices (1 tbsp poultry seasoning, 1 tbsp black pepper, etc.) Stir until combined and the chicken is coated in the yogurt marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. I try to do this overnight to allow more time for the flavors to sink in.

                Heat your Dutch oven over high heat. Using a wire mesh strainer I place the chicken and shake off the excess yogurt into the sink. Once the Dutch oven is hot, add 1 tbsp. olive oil and heat to the smoking point. Add about half of the chicken cubes and sear for about 2 minutes. Turn the chicken once and sear again another 2 minutes. Remove chicken and place on a plate. Add the other tbsp. of olive oil and sear the remaining chicken the same way. Remove chicken to the plate. Reduce the heat to medium high, add the butter, onion and jalapeno and sauté until fragrant and the onions are translucent.

                Stir in the tomato sauce, heavy whipping cream, the remaining spices and the chicken. Bring up to a gentle boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Slowly cook with the lid on for 2-3 hours. This technique of searing the chicken, and then slow cooking it should give you chicken with a little bit of a bite from the sear, but then is super tender to chew. Simmering this sauce for 2-3 hours really allows for those flavors to merry and create something magical.

                Serve over Basmati rice, with Naan on the side. Just a tip, this dish is warm, hearty, smokey and earthy. To help cut through all that richness, a little acid is needed. Add rice vinegar and/or lime juice and some cilantro to your Basmati rice. The brighter acidic flavors added to the rice will serve as the perfect bed for that spicy smokey sauce.