Chicken Tikka MasalaPosted: 29 November 2010
The first time I ever had Indian food was in Wales. At least, I think that was the first time. I’m pretty sure it was and if it wasn’t the very first moment in my life, it was certainly the first time I remembered what I’d eaten. It was a sweet curry with pineapples, bananas and chicken in it. It was delicious. I’ve eaten a lot of curry since then, some of it has been amazingly good but I’ve never had that same curry that I had in Wales. Unfortunately it’s unlikely that I’ll ever be in Wales again, or if I am, unlikely that I’ll find that same small, and sort of weird, restaurant and manage to order that curry. It’s also pretty likely that I’ve created it in my head to have tasted totally different than what it actually tasted like. Don’t you hate when you do that?
Indian food has long been something that I’ve enjoyed in restaurants but didn’t really venture into making on my own. A few years ago when my favorite Indian restaurant closed, I realized I was going to have to learn at some point. I still haven’t managed to recreate their lamb Kashmiri but I can try. The first thing I ever made from scratch was Pork Vindaloo. I used Mark Bitman’s red cookbook (it’s the best one) and followed the recipe more or less to what he said. I’ve also made his Chicken Byranni, Chicken Korma, and Tikka Masala. And sometimes I just throw together my various curry spices and make un-named curries that I think will taste good. They usually do, but in all honesty, the Indian lunch buffet near my work is better.
Although I like making Indian dishes, I’ve come to realize that sometimes it is okay to buy a jar of premade sauce. I would never be caught dead buying jarred spaghetti sauce. I’m not sure if I’ve ever willingly eaten Ragu or Prego. I’ve probably been fed it by friends’ parents in the past, unfortunately. I would never spend money on that stuff when I can make something that’s infinitely better in no time. Seems silly. And you know, who wants to eat corn syrup on their spaghetti? I do occasionally though, buy jars of pre-made curry sauces. This delicious dinner of Chicken Tikka Masala did in fact involve a jar of Tikka Masala sauce. A $2.99 jar from Target in fact. Shameful isn’t it?
I buy the sauces and usually end up doctoring them a bit, so I feel better about using something premade. Also, the curry sauces lack things like high fructose corn syrup and maltodextrin. Usually the ingredient list is just a lot of spices and herbs and nothing that doesn’t sound like it should be eaten. This makes me feel better. I guess I use the sauce as more of a base and then add to it what I want. For example, this jar of Tikka Masala can be poured directly onto meat or veggies and served. But I like to add a cup of milk, garlic and some fresh cilantro to the mix. I pour the milk into the sauce jar once it’s empty and shake it up. This gets all the sauce that’s stuck on the sides of the jar out and nothing gets wasted. By letting it simmer with a little garlic and cilantro, you get a more flavorful sauce and it’s less obvious that I popped open a jar from Target.
I served the sauce with diced chicken breast and sliced onions, over a bed of Basmati rice with some fresh basil to finish it off. Senor highly approved and it tasted pretty delicious to me. I guess the moral to the story is that sometimes even foodies end up buying the ready-made stuff. Just make sure it’s not the kind that has 10-syllable words in it.