~Dinner's in 30 Minutes: Indian-Style Butter Chicken~
Put your big boy pants on. Put bigger pants on. If you're conscientiously counting calories, carbohydrates or cholesterol, your calculator is entering the forbidden zone. Butter chicken is to Indian food what General Tso’s chicken is to Chinese food. It's love from first to last succulent bite, it's positively irresistible and addictive, and, it's guaranteed to push even the most self-controlled eater into the abyss of really bad diet days. Get your affairs in order, there's more:
Butter Chicken is served w/basmati rice, mango chutney & buttery naan.
A bit about "butter chicken": "Murgh makhani" (which means "chicken cooked in butter" comes from the word "makkhan" which means butter), was created in the 1950's at the Moti Mahal restaurant in Delhi. Typical Northern Indian makhanis are mild to medium-spiced curry dishes consisting of yogurt-and-spice marinated chicken breasts or thighs. After dry-heat roasting or grilling, the browned chicken is simmered in creamy-silky pinkish-orange tomato-based sauce made of garlic and ginger with a bit of honey or sugar for some sweetness. The sauce is seasoned with an array of aromatic herbs and spices, used at the discretion of the chef or cook: garam masala, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander and fenugreek, plus, earthy cumin and turmeric. Cashew paste is stirred in for a subtle nutty flavor, which thickens the sauce a bit too, and, at the end, the signature melted butter is drizzled over the top. Lastly, the dish is garnished with cream, crème fraîse or yogurt and fresh cilantro leaves, then, served with or over basmati rice accompanied by buttery naan flatbread and sweet chutney. It's a very rich dish.
Butter chicken is a Northern Indian Punjabi dish -- it's classic and mainstream Indian. Chicken Tikka Masala hails from the United Kingdom -- it's Indian inspired and is eaten all over the world. They’re both wonderful, and similar looking too, but, there are differences between the two. Butter chicken has a rich, creamy, mildly-spicy, tomato-based sauce with a nutty undertone due to the addition of cashew paste, and, the dish is finished off with melted butter (hence the name: butter chicken). Chicken tikka masala has a rich, creamy, spicy, tomato-based sauce with a citrusy undertone due to the addition of lemon juice, and relies, in large part, on garam masala* for its flavor. There's a bit more. In Indian, a piece of "food" (chicken, meat or paneer) prepared in a tandoor is referred to as "tikka" (hence the name: chicken tikka masala). It's all in the name.
*Garam masala is a pulverized blend of dry spices, the amounts of which vary to suit the palate of the Indian family or cook. It's said that garam masala is the precursor to curry powder, having been prepared by Indian merchants and sold to members of the British Colonial government.
For all of the complex, sophisticated flavor Indian-style butter chicken delivers, one would think this dish takes hours to prepare. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Chopping the chicken and preparing the marinade takes 5 minutes, and, the marination process requires 2-4 hours, or preferably, 6-8 hours or overnight, so, I've excluded both from the 30-minute stovetop-to-table time because they're done well in advance. That said, past that, aside from chopping a few fresh green chilis (which I grow and keep in my freezer), there's no slicing, dicing or chopping to do after that -- just compile and measure some Indian ingredients* along with some cream and canned tomatoes, and, steam some basmati rice while the butter chicken simmers away.
*Cashew paste: It's on the list and it plays a significant role in making real-deal butter chicken. Of course you can buy it at your local Indian market, but, if you have an extra 1-2 minutes and you are so inclined, make what you need in a mini-food processor. Place 1/2 cup chopped, unsalted cashews or chopped lightly-toasted & cooled cashews in the work bowl. With motor running, process to fine cashew crumbs, about 30-45 seconds. With motor running, a few tablespoons at a time, drizzle in 1/2 cup of water until a thick paste forms, 30-45 seconds.
2-2 1/2 pounds raw, boneless skinless chicken thighs, chopped into bite-sized, 3/4"-1" pieces (about 8 large chicken thighs)
3/4 cup Greek-syle yogurt
1 tablespoon garlic paste
1 tablespoon ginger paste
1 teaspoon kashmiri chili powder (a chili powder used in Indian cooking for color, not heat)
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
~Step 1. Chop chicken as directed, placing it in a 1-gallon food storage bag as you work. In a medium bowl, stir together the yogurt and all remaining ingredients. Add the marinade to the chicken and toss until chicken is evenly coated. Refrigerated for several hours or overnight.
6 tablespoons salted butter (3/4 stick)
4-6 green chilis, thinly-sliced
1 tablespoon garlic paste
2 tablespoons ginger paste
seeds from 1 black cardamom pod
1 1/2 cups tomato puree
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons kashmiri chili powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon dried funugreek leaves (kasoori methi)
1 cup cream
1/2 cup cashew paste
2 tablespoons salted butter, for stirring in at the end
all of the marinated & roasted chicken + its juices, from above recipe
For the suggested accompaniments & garnish:
4 cups uncooked basmati rice, cooked according to package directions in an electric rice steamer or on the stovetop
4-6 naan flatbread, see Cook's Note below
1 cup mango chutney
1/2 cup Greek-style yogurt, for garnish
1/2 cup minced, fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish
~ Step 1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking pan with foil and parchment. Spread chicken on pan and roast for 15 minutes. Chicken will be browning on top and about three-quarters cooked through with clear juices in the pan.
~Step 2. While the chicken is roasting, in a 5 1/2-quart chef's pan, melt 6 tablespoons of the butter over low heat. Stir in the sliced chilis, garlic paste, ginger paste and cardamom seeds and cook about 30 seconds, until bubbling and fragrant. Add and stir in the tomato purée and honey, followed by the dry spices: chili powder, garam masala and fenugreek leaves. Adjust heat to a gentle simmer, stir in the cream and the cashew paste, return to a simmer and cook about 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly.
~ Step 3. Add the roasted chicken and its juices too. Adjust heat to a very gentle simmer, partially cover pan and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 10-12 minutes. Stir in remaining the butter just prior to serving.
Serve over or w/basmati rice w/yogurt & cilantro garnish:
Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; 1-gallon food storage bag; mini-food processor (optional); spoon; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; aluminum foil; parchment paper; 5 1/2 quart chef's pan w/straight deep sides & lid; large spoon
Cook's Note: Every Indian cook knows how to make their family's traditional breads, and, every Indian cook serves one or more types every day with almost every meal. Not making it is not an option, and, it's traditional to serve naan with butter chicken. My recipe for ~ Flatbread in a Hurry? Easy No-Yeast Indian Naan ~, can be found in Categories 5, 13.
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)