Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Chicken Tikka Masala

Several years ago, I spent 1 or 2 nights a week working as a bartender for an Indian gentleman at a Latin club (don't ask). While Abdul wasn't going to win any employer of the year awards, the man knew his way around a kitchen and seemed to love cooking for me, almost as much as I loved eating my way through his menu.  I spent the time before my shifts sampling Samosas, Tandoori Chicken, Lamb Saag and Chicken Vindaloo but no matter what I tasted, I couldn't shake my affinity for Chicken Tikka Masala. Maybe it's the simplicity of the spices, the perfect kiss of hot pepper or the touch of cream; maybe it's the way they all blend together and embody, to me, a cool evening in Mumbai, sitting at a street cafe watching the hustle and bustle of the city.  I wouldn't know, I've never been there, but in my mind it's as vivid as the brightest of saris.  Perhaps I'll get there someday, but until then, I'll forgo the sari and my Indian travels will remain the culinary variety.

This is my interpretation of the dish Abdul made for me countless times.  I've attempted to "healthify" it a bit by replacing butter with cooking oil spray and heavy cream with fat free half & half.  By doing so, I've slashed 67 calories and 8 fat grams per serving.  Not too shabby! Of course, if you're not feeling particularly health conscious, go ahead and saute your chicken in butter and replace the fat free half & half with 1/3 cup of heavy cream.

Chicken Tikka Masala

1 1/2 lbs skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
salt and pepper to taste
cooking oil spray
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cinnamon

1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes (undrained)
1/2 cup fat free half & half
1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (more or less to taste)

Cal: 220  Fat: 9g  Carb: 10g  Protein: 25g  Fiber: 2g - Original Recipe
Cal: 153  Fat: 1g  Carb: 11g  Protein: 25g  Fiber: 2g - My Version
Serves: 6

Season chicken cubes with salt and pepper.  Spray a large, heavy saute pan with cooking oil spray. Over medium high heat, saute chopped onion and garlic until translucent.  
Add your chicken cubes and cook until the chicken is no longer pink (about 8-10 minutes).  Add all of your spices (except crushed red pepper) and the lemon juice.  Stir well and cook for about a minute.  
Remove chicken cubes and transfer to a serving platter.  

Reduce heat to medium, add canned tomatoes and stir well.  In a small bowl, stir the cream into your cornstarch to make a slurry. Slowly stir the cornstarch slurry into your saute pan, then stir in the crushed red pepper.  Allow liquid to come to a boil.  Once boiling, lower heat and simmer until the sauce thickens. 
Transfer your sauce to a blender and blend until smooth. Remove the cap from your blender lid to allow rising steam to escape, but cover the opening with a folded dish towel to prevent the hot liquid from splattering.  

Pour blended sauce over chicken cubes and serve with Basmati rice (rice not included in nutritional information).
A great veg accompaniment is cauliflower sauteed with a touch of fresh ginger, garam masala and turmeric. Yum!

Forgive the paper plates, we are still without a sink and I'm trying to minimize the amount of dishes I have to do in the bathtub! 
Bon Appetit!

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