Preserver’s Tikka Masala

Like most people, J and I are trying to make informed choices to start off 2013. Move more. (Hooray desk jobs!) Spend deliberately. (Age old needs vs. wants, but also save and prioritize now that we both have stable jobs – for the moment, anyway. Ah, adulthood.) Eat smartly. (More fruit & veg, cook new things, eat out of our pantry). So – you know – the goals of probably 90% of us this time of year.

I have always loved Indian food. My hometown had just one Indian restaurant – nestled on the edge of town sharing space with a motel. It had at least three names that I can remember (and I assume just as many owners) – but it always had a Sunday fixed price buffet. It became a regular tradition to head out there after church (or – true confession – during “church!”) where we would nothing short of gorge ourselves on biriyani, samosas, pakora, and anything else that made it out to the buffet table. And I was hooked. To this day – if the budget allows, I will always go for Indian when given the choice.

And that’s a big if. While I sort of live in the boonies, I do have more than one takeout choice for my comforting curries and naan. But that said – takeout or eat in, its always at minimum $30 for two people. Not the least expensive option around. So in the spirit of the new year, when the latest craving hit, I started researching recipes. I found one that not only was fairly healthy, but would also please my picky eater better half. And – I had almost all of the ingredients already on hand.

Preserver's Tikka Masala

You’ve got the spices, chicken, herbs and pantry essentials ready to go in addition to that multipurpose tomato puree you put up in September, right? Right. If you have a reasonably well-stocked pantry – you should only have to go out for some cream. Yes, CREAM. Given there is an overwhelming half a cup in a recipe that served two of us for dinner in addition to two leftover lunches, I think it can still be considered a healthy recipe.

Pull your chicken out of the chest freezer and thaw in the fridge overnight. You can marinate the chicken in spices if you wish, but I noticed no flavor difference when I made this all at once after work. Dredge the chicken in flour and then sear in a skillet – in batches if necessary. At the same time, melt your cilantro cubes in a heavy bottomed pot or dutch oven. What? You have no cilantro cubes in oil? Seriously – I saw that post EVERYWHERE this summer. If you still have fresh herbs on your windowsill this time of year – of course use those, but add them at the very end. I add the frozen cilantro in oil at the beginning of this recipe to make use of the oil – otherwise adding it at the end would be too much. No cilantro at all? No sense in buying one of those terrible plastic packets at the store – just add extra coriander or omit – up to you.

Once the oil has melted, add your ginger, garlic, and onion. Once they have browned a bit, add all of the spices. The goal is to toast and brown the mix to give it flavor. While you can toast your spices and then add them, I find it easier to take an extra few minutes to brown them in the same pot. Add chicken once the spices are fragrant. If it looks too oily, add another tablespoon of flour and cook for another minute. Empty in a pint of roasted tomato puree and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Just before you are ready to eat, stir in the cream and simmer for another few minutes.

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Serve with rice, homemade naan & aloo gobi, and enjoy a quick departure from your normal routine. Here’s to 2013.

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