I first discovered the beauty of chicken tikka masala while studying abroad in York, England, during my junior year of college. There, it's as ubiquitous on pub menus as mac and cheese is in the U.S. And though it's also a staple in Indian restaurants across Britain and the States, like the Chinese equivalent, General Tso's Chicken, there's nothing really traditional about this ethnic dish. (The Oxford Companion to Food speculates that tikka masala originated in England around 1970.)
I guess, if you think about it, tikka masala is the beginner's introduction to Indian flavor. It's full of warming spices like cumin, coriander, paprika, and garam masala, but mellowed by the addition of heavy cream. And with its tomato-based sauce, this pseudo-Indian favorite is a perfect candidate for another pseudo-ethnic dish: Pizza!
The recipe that follows is based on this one by Emma Christensen of The Kitchn. I chose it because of its simplicity, and tweaked it slightly to reduce the yield and make it even easier to follow.
Chicken Tikka Masala Pizza (based on this recipe from The Kitchn)
Makes one 12-inch pizza
- 1/4 cup plain, whole milk yogurt (not Greek)
- 1½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 to 3/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of visible fat
- 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 large yellow onion, finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/2 to 1 tablespoon garam masala
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 6 tablespoons heavy cream, plus 1 tablespoon for drizzling
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus 1 heaping teaspoon for finishing
- 1 (14- to 16-ounce) ball Basic Pizza Dough (or pre-made dough)
Place your pizza stone (if using) on an oven rack 6 to 8 inches from the broiler. If you plan to cook your pizza on a baking sheet, place a rack in the middle of the oven (you do not need to preheat the baking sheet).
To prep the toppings: In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, lemon juice, cumin, and coriander. Place the chicken in a shallow, airtight container and pour the marinade over top, turning to coat the chicken. Cover the container and let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or up to 6 hours.
Pull the chicken out of the refrigerator and preheat the oven to broil on high. Line a baking sheet with foil and set a wire rack in the baking sheet. Remove the chicken from the container, shaking off any excess marinade, and lay them on the wire rack in a single layer, about 1 inch apart. Broil for 6 minutes, then flip the thighs and broil for another 6 minutes. The chicken is done when an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh registers 165°F. Remove the chicken from the oven and set them aside to cool. Increase the oven temperature to 500°F.
While the chicken cools, prepare the sauce. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute for 5 to 7 minutes or until they begin to soften. Add the garlic and ginger and saute for 1 minute, then stir in the tomato paste, 1/2 tablespoon of garam masala, paprika, and cayenne and cook for another minute. Stir in the tomatoes with their juices, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 5 minutes or until the sauce comes to a bubble and begins to thicken.
Chop the chicken into 1/2-inch pieces and add them to the sauce, along with the 6 tablespoons of heavy cream. Let the sauce come back to the simmer, then add the salt and a few grinds of black pepper, taste, and adjust seasonings as necessary. Stir in 1/4 cup of cilantro and remove the pan from the heat. Let it cool slightly while you stretch or roll out the dough.
To stretch/roll out the dough: Dust the ball of dough with flour and place it on a well-floured work surface. Using your hands or a rolling pin, gently stretch or roll the dough into a 12-inch disk.
If you’re using a pizza stone: Dust a pizza peel or the back of a baking sheet generously with flour or cornmeal. Place the dough disk on the prepared peel.
If you're using a baking sheet: Spray the baking sheet with cooking spray. Place the dough disk on the prepared baking sheet.
To top the pizza: Spoon the chicken and sauce onto the dough, spreading it out evenly and leaving a 1/2-inch border of dough all around. Brush the exposed edges of dough with a little melted butter if desired.
To bake the pizza: If you're using a pizza stone, 10 minutes before you are ready to cook the pizza, increase the oven heat to broil. Slide the pizza from the peel (or inverted baking sheet) to the hot stone using quick shimmying movements. Broil the pizza for 6 to 8 minutes until the crust is golden and the topping begins to brown. Using the peel or inverted baking sheet, transfer the cooked pizza to a cutting board. If you are making more than one pizza, allow the pizza stone to reheat under the broiler for 5 minutes before you cook the next one.
If you're using a baking sheet, do not increase the oven to broil. Place the baking sheet on the rack in the middle of the oven and bake at 500°F for 10 to 12 minutes, until the crust is golden and the topping begins to brown.
As soon as the pizza comes out of the oven, drizzle it with the remaining 1 tablespoon of cream. Let the pizza rest for 5 minutes, then sprinkle with the remaining 1 teaspoon of chopped cilantro; slice and serve.