I spent this past weekend in Chicago, and if there is one thing in particular I envy about the people that call the Gold Coast home, it is the abundance of interesting restaurants in every corner of the city. On Sunday afternoon I spent some time in Wicker Park, and it seemed that every corner had a mom and pop style food spot which I wanted to sample. Obviously, that wasn’t possible, but hey a guy can dream. Interestingly, the most prevalent food type was Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine. I have written before about how much I love the flavors coming out of the Middle East, and India is not far behind. I love the warm spices indicative of a curry which go into so many of the dishes which are considered classically Indian, and my favorite among them all may be tikka masala. This dish can be made with a variety of meats, but my two favorite tikka masala options are chicken thighs and leg of lamb. I prefer both of these because they are lean meats which cook quickly, but have just enough fat to stay juicy and help flavor the overall dish. You could make tikka masala with steak, but considering that India is mainly a Hindu nation and Hindus do not eat cows, that would be pretty inauthentic.
- 2 T Cardamom
- 2 T Black Pepper, freshly ground
- 2 T Coriander
- 1 T Cumin
- 1 T Mustard Powder
- 1 tsp. Nutmeg, freshly ground if possible
- 1 tsp. Cinnamon
- 1 tsp. Red Chili Flake
- 28 oz. Diced Tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
- 15 oz. Coconut Milk
- 1 Medium Onion, diced
- 1 Serrano Chile, diced
- 1 T Fresh Ginger, minced
- 2 Cloves Garlic, minced
- ½ T Coconut Oil
- 1 Pound Leg of Lamb, cut into 1 - 2 inch pieces
- 1 T Spice Blend
- ½ C Full Fat Yogurt
- 1 T Kosher Salt
- In a large, dry skillet, combine all the spices, except the nutmeg, and toast until fragrant. Be careful, as spices can burn quickly. Once you start to smell the mix, it is done. Remove from the heat, add the nutmeg, and store in an airtight container.
- In a large zip top bag, combine the lamb, one tablespoon of the spice blend, yogurt, and salt. Toss to thoroughly combine, and then refrigerate for at least 2 hours, and preferably overnight.
- When you are ready to cook your lamb tikka masala, remove the lamb from the fridge, and skewer with metal skewers, being sure to leave ½ inch between pieces. Set aside and allow to come to room temperature.
- In a large skillet over high heat, heat the coconut oil until it shimmers. Add the onion and cook until it is very dark, approximately 10 minutes. Add the chile, ginger, and garlic, and season with salt. When the aromatics are finished, toss in the rest of the spice mix, saute briefly, and pour in the tomatoes and bring to a simmer.
- As the sauce thickens, preheat your grill to its highest setting. If using charcoal, you will want to have started the coals at least 15 minutes prior, and you will want one even layer very close to the grates. The goal is to cook over the highest heat possible. Grill the lamb until cooked to medium rare doneness, approximately 7-10 minutes at most. This will depend upon how thick you cut the pieces, as well as the heat of the grill. Remove from the grill, carefully take off the skewer, and add to the pan with the sauce.
- Toss the lamb and sauce together, and then pour in the can of coconut milk. Toss again to heat through, and let thicken slightly.
- Serve over white basmati rice and top with julienned mint, if desired. Serves 4.
Nutrition: 1 serving with ¼ C Basmati Rice