When I visited the Chelsea district of London with my parents in 1980, lots of interesting things were happening. Punk was not even thinking about being dead, and George O'Dowd was barely hatching interesting ideas about gender and the reggae-pop confluence. The disco down the street was just waiting around for the last person to turn out the lights. My dad and I would walk to infamous Sloane square and watch people for hours, pretending to feed the pigeons.
I fell in love with the Laura Ashley boutique and all things lavender. I walked into a lamppost while staring at the "zebra crossing" and got a nasty concussion. I decided that from there on out all things should be spelled the British way: aeroplane, favour, aluminium. London smelled interesting, sounded oh so smart, and looked cooler than anything I'd ever seen in my eight young years. And it was in Chelsea that I experienced my first Chicken Tikka Masala.
Food is a function of memory, or maybe it's the other way around-think about how Proust launched an entire literary form by describing the dunking of a Madeline in a cup of herbal tea. But one whiff of the clove-cumin-garam masala-cream-tomato lusciousness of a tikka masala transfers me to a younger time, when this was all I wanted to eat for several days. I held off on the request long enough to figure out how to pronounce the words. Now I can pronounce it, and cook it on a weeknight besides. With the guidance of one Chris Kimball from Cooks Illustrated, I have an awesome recipe that can be prepared in about an hour.
A few notes about this dish: I like to do this with a whole chicken that I've broken down into two breasts and two thigh-and-leg pieces. I leave the meat on the bone, too. This doesn't change the cooking time for the breasts, but it does for the leg-thigh pieces. For them I add another 10 minutes. I'll simply remove the breasts and hold them in a warmed dish with some foil over them.
The other note is this: Cooks Illustrated hates bloggers to "borrow" or "improve" on their recipes. (How could we improve on perfection? Chris, have some pity on us!). So I've provided the link to the recipe. In order to get the recipe, you have to sign up for a 14-day Free Trial Online Membership. But dude, it's totally worth it. Videos! Back issue recipes! Chris Kimball naked! You're ripping yourself off by not signing up. G'wan. Plus, if you really want, you can email me and I'll walk you through it. Okay, go.