takeout experiment #1: chicken tikka masala

we try to limit the amount of take out we eat in our house. mainly because it's expensive and unhealthy, but also because i like to challenge us to create our favorite recipes at home. now don't misunderstand, we still partake in the five guys run, couch-and-coma-ordering-of-pizza and munching that leads to grazing of cheese and crackers that leads to who in the heck could possibly eat dinner now? BUT hey, we try!

so i'm trying to introduce a little cooking and lifestyle experiment into our family. i want to see how many of our favorite dishes we can create at home that battle our favorite take out versions. this isn't really about saving $20 or 1000 calories (although that would be a nice bonus!), it's more of a mindset challenge. i feel like i'm programmed to decide that food is better because:
  1. i didn't make it
  2. it came out of a strofoam box that is inside a plastic bag tied so tight that it can only be opened with scissors
  3. i paid MONEY for it
  4.  i'm SO hungry
this all kind of adds up to a big pile of bs that we're eating with a plastic knife and fork once every ten day or so. now the point of challenge is not to eliminate the random takeout night. NO. everyone needs a random takeout night because, well we just do okay? sometimes everything you bought the day before at trader joes looks hein, or you just need to get out of your house like NOW, even if it means trading turns eating and chasing your toddler with your spouse or you just really, really want a bahn mi and you don't have pate let alone bbq pork and perfect french baguettes laying around your house and it's only three dollars so what the hell? 

so our first experiment is the beloved chicken tikka masala. this took a bit of investment in some new spices (garam masala and corriander), but everything else (beyond the non-greek yogurt and jalapaeno pepper) was something i've bought on many a random grocery runs.

recipe: chicken tikka masala (cribbed and inspired from cooks illustrated, but my version is spicier!)


    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
    • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    • 1 teaspoon table salt
    • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of fat
    • 1 cup plain yogurt
    • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    • 2 medium garlic cloves (minced)
    • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger (grated) 
    • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
    • 1 medium onion, diced fine (about 1 1/4 cups)
    • 2 medium garlic cloves (minced or pressed through a garlic press, about 2 teaspoons)
    • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger ( grated)
    • 1 jalapeno chili (fresh, ribs and seeds removed, flesh minced)
    • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
    • 1 tablespoon, plus 1 tsp garam masala 
    • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
    • 1/4 tsp coriander
    • 1/4 tsp cumin 
    • 1 (28 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
    • 2 teaspoons sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon table salt 
    • 2/3 cup fat free half and half
    • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves ( chopped)

  1. chicken: mix spices, sprinkle on both sides of chicken, press into chicken a bit. cover with plastic, refrigerate 30-60 minutes. while chicken marinates in dry rub make yogurt sauce: In large bowl, whisk together yogurt, oil, garlic, and ginger; set aside.
  2. sauce:  heat oil in large pot over medium heat until shimmering. add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until light golden, 8 to 10 minutes. add garlic, ginger, jalapeano, tomato paste, and cayenne, coriander, cumin and garam masala; cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. add crushed tomatoes, sugar, and salt; bring to boil. reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. stir in ff half and half and return to simmer. remove pan from heat and cover to keep warm.
  3. while sauce simmers, preheat oven to 350. line a baking pan with foil. using tongs, dip chicken into yogurt mixture (chicken should be coated with thick layer of yogurt) and arrange on pan. discard excess yogurt mixture. cook chicken about 15 minutes or till juices run clear. *original recipe uses a broiler to cook the chicken but i'm scared of ours. it's old and creeper like.*
  4. let chicken rest 5 minutes, then cut into 1-inch chunks and stir into warm sauce (do not simmer chicken in sauce). Stir in cilantro, adjust seasoning with salt, and serve.
  5. Serve with coconut rice and garlic naan.


  1. this looks so delicious...i think i know what im making for dinner tonight! ;)

    1. thanks, carrie! i really enjoyed making something we usually only order for takeout or at a restaurant at home!!

  2. Replies
    1. word! doing the whole leftovers thing now, with QUINOA!


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