We have a very close sailing friend — for his privacy, we will refer to him by the title we use half the time anyway due to his own formidable culinary skills…The Happy Hindu — who will likely be booking a flight within minutes of this posting in order to keel haul me for my bastardization of one of the world’s great cuisines. But I didn’t call it “authentic” tikka masala…I called it quick. And when you crave a warm bowl of something Indian over rice but don’t happen to be anchored within free-delivery distance of your favorite takeout, you will thank me for this.
The authentic version is long-stewed with lots of ingredients. This comes together in well under 30 minutes, and with a side of fresh mango and a crisp white wine will keep you feeling mildly sunny even in cold mid-winter.
To start with, drain the liquid from a can of diced tomatoes into a bowl and chop the tomatoes themselves until they are quite ground down. If you have a food processor, you can pulse juice and tomatoes together to the same effect, but I went with the ulu for simplicity and because I would use it for the aromatics shortly. Why not just use canned crushed tomatoes? They’re just too ketchupy…you want tomato bits in juice, not a sauce or paste.
Once chopped, you can add them back to the juice to await use.
Next, finely mince a couple big cloves of garlic and a couple teaspoons of fresh ginger. With prep out of the way, let’s get cookin’.
Brown cubed chicken in olive oil or butter. I used about 1 big chicken breast for each two people dining. I also happened to have poached chicken breasts in the icebox, so that’s what I used and just browned them on high heat very quickly to give them some char. The recipe is actually better if you go with raw chicken and brown over medium-high for a good 5-8 minutes until browned and firm. Set the chicken aside in a bowl.
Sautee one diced onion for about 5 minutes until it begins to soften. Add 1 tablespoon garam masala spice and the minced garlic and ginger and sautee just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add tomatoes with their juice and bring to simmer; cover and cook about 3 minutes to thicken.
Stir in 1/2 cup heavy or sour cream and chicken and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Then stir in 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve over rice with a garnish of fresh mango slices.