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Dinner Tonight: Quick Tikka Masala

Chicken tikka masala was the very first curry I ever loved—a go-to dinner while studying in Europe without a clue in the world how to cook anything. At least twice a week I'd brown some chicken pieces, dump in a jar of spicy tikka masala sauce, and serve the whole lot over boiled rice. Great times, but you can never go home again. Now that I know how to cook, I can't bring myself to eat dinner from a jar (and I've since learned that what I was eating was really a sort of Anglified dish with lots of sauce because Brits like their meat with "gravy"). Most of the curries I make these days are vegetarian and a little more authentic, but my days of tikka masala recently returned in the form of an insatiable craving. Unable to resist, I set out to find a recipe.

Most recipes call for overnight marinades for the meat, but I wanted it to be a quick dinner that would work for this column. Based on a recipe I found at About.com (an article about British food!) along with elements of a few others, I pulled together this 45-minute version that's a good shortcut. While the chicken is marinating, no time is wasted: meanwhile, onions and ginger caramelize slowly with spices until falling apart (this stage is a key to the deep flavor of many curries). I traded the more common heavy cream for yogurt, adding a little flour to keep it from curdling, with tomato paste for flavor and lemon for tartness. The result is a very classic "curry" taste. Better than the jar, for sure.

About the author: Blake Royer founded The Paupered Chef with Nick Kindelsperger, where he writes about food and occasional travels. He is currently living for the year in Tartu, Estonia.

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