Up the ante by using boneless, skinless chicken, which cooks quickly but can lack flavor compared to bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. Yes, thigh meat tends to have more essence, but I’m an aficionado of the white meat (while Hubby likes the dark meat), so recipes utilizing the fairer flesh appeal to me.
The depth of flavor starts right off the bat with your cooking fat—be it ghee, or oil. You need this bit of fat when you have this lean cut of meat and a lot of seasoning going on. While the honey lends a sweet, caramelize-y twist to this quick curry, if you want to up the heat, add a big pinch of cayenne pepper.
Spices not only bring ample seasoning but texture to dishes. The triumvirate of onion, ginger, and garlic provides the deep base flavor of most curries, equivalent to onion, carrot and celery in the French tradition. (Note: garlic is not essential. Some Indians eschew it completely on account of its pungency and it is often left out of food served at weddings to avoid offending guests.)
One hour to make dinner may not be everyone’s idea of a “quick” meal. Yes, you can use a rotisserie chicken and jarred sauce, but to achieve more authentic results, you need to step up your game. The complex flavors of curries include generous spicing of onion, ginger and garlic; and something to give it body. Here, it is the combination of tomatoes, honey, yogurt and coconut milk.
Bon Appétit says canned tomatoes are one of the easiest ways to build a sauce from a handful of ingredients, and coconut milk helps out too. You really want to get the sauce to a thick place, so reduce until it coats the spoon.
The original recipe calls for adding the raw chicken after the coconut milk has been cooked which would release moisture back into the thickened sauce. But I sear the meat first, leaving the luscious browned bits in the pan, and then add it back in toward the end, so no extra moisture thins the sauce.
For another layer of flavor, after portioning out, add a generous squeeze of fresh lime juice and scatter on some sliced scallions with the chopped cilantro and drizzle of yogurt sauce. Then have some thick, crusty bread handy to scoop up all the extra sauce, or serve alongside a pile of rice for a low-maintenance comfort food dinner. Speaking of rice, if you steam it in homemade chicken stock, you’ll add even more luscious depth to the dish. We can’t wait until we make this again!
Quick Tomato Chicken Curry
4 tablespoons ghee, coconut oil, or extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 large red onion, cut into ½-inch wedges
- 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded, stemmed, cut across the equator then into ½-inch strips
1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled, finely grated
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon garam masala
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons honey
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
1 15-ounce can coconut milk
3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 1½ pounds total), cut into 1-inch-thick pieces
½ cup whole-milk Greek yogurt
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced on diagonal
½ cup coarsely chopped cilantro
- Heat 1 tablespoon ghee/oil in a large wide saucepan over medium-high. Add chicken pieces and brown on all sides, about 3 minutes total, remove from pan and set aside. (You may have to do this in two batches so that the chicken browns instead of steams.)
- Add remaining ghee/oil, onion and pepper strips and cook, turning occasionally, until undersides are golden brown, about 4 minutes.
- Add ginger and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes; season with salt.
- Add garam masala, bay leaf, and crushed red pepper and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in honey and cook until slightly caramelized, about 1 minute.
- Add tomatoes along with juices and bring to a boil, smashing down on tomatoes with a wooden spoon until pieces are no bigger than 1″. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring often and scraping up browned bits from bottom of pot, until sauce thickens, 8–10 minutes.
- Add coconut milk and cook, stirring occasionally and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Add browned chicken strips and any accumulated juices and reduce heat to low.
- Cook, partially covered, until chicken is cooked through, 8–10 minutes. Season with salt.
- Stir yogurt, a big pinch of salt, and 2 Tbsp. water in a small bowl.
- Drizzle yogurt sauce over stew. Top with sliced scallions and cilantro. Serve over rice or noodles if desired.
Do Ahead: Curry (without yogurt sauce) can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill.
Adapted from a recipe by Andy Baraghani from Bon Appétit