Sunday, 2 August 2015

Butter Chicken

Butter Chicken

Butter chicken is 'The Dish' to serve to non Indian types.  Everyone loves it, because the spices are sweet and mild.  I had the ladies from gradeschool and highschool over for dinner the other night.  I can't comfortably cook anything but Indian recipes, but since they’re innocents from Alberta, I decided to go light on the spicing, but when it came to the eating, they wanted it hotter!  Who knew?  After one asked for the recipe, I was astonished to see I’d never posted a straight forward ‘butter chicken’ recipe.  Well, I had to make it all over again to get the pictures, so, here goes.

This recipe serves four to six, depending on how greedy, and takes well over twenty four hours to prepare.  You might get away with twelve. The marinade is what takes the time, otherwise it's about a one and a half hour prep.  

Of course there is an easy way and a hard way.  I've given the hard way here.  If you want easy, go to the Indian aisle of a certain big grocery chain, and choose the little box of 'butter chicken' masala. Use about two tablespoons of that in place of the spices I've described here.

Tap the cardamom with the pestle a few times to release the husks.
12 boneless, skinned chicken thighs
5 garlic cloves
3 Thai Chilies
2 inches roughly chopped ginger
1 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon salt 

1 tablespoon fennel seed
1 tablespoon coriander seed
1 tablespoon cumin seed
½ teaspoon black ajwain
15 black peppercorns
¼ teaspoon fenugreek seed
1 large cinnamon stick
5 cloves
3 Kashmiri chillies
5 green cardamom pods
1 black cardamom pod
½ teaspoon turmeric powder

(or about 2 tablespoons of 'butter chicken' masala from a little box)

1 tablespoon canola oil
½ large red onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter) or use more oil
4 fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 sweet red pepper, roughly chopped
1 heaping tablespoon jaggery or brown sugar (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
¼ to ½ cup heavy cream (35%)
Cilantro leaves to garnish

You can go the hard way, or the easy boxed masala way!
I like to start a good 24 hours ahead, but 12 is okay, I guess.  In a blender, combine the garlic, chilies, ginger, yogurt, and salt.  Pour this into a marinating container, and add chicken.  Be sure to submerge the chicken in this marinade.  Cover and let sit for 24 hours if you can, or 12 if you’re in a hurry.

About two hours before you’re planning to serve this delectable dish, roast your spices in a large, dry pan.  Combine the coriander seed, cumin seed, black ajwain, black peppercorns, fenugreek seed, cinnnamon stick, cloves, chillies,  5 green cardamom pods (crush with a pestle first, then pound a few times and eliminate the husks) and black cardamom (same procedure).  Roast for a few minutes, till they get fragrant and colour just a bit.  Brush into a spice grinder, along with the turmeric.  Set aside. (Or measure out 2 tablespoons of 'butter chicken' masala).

Pour the oil into a large non-stick pan, setting heat to medium high.  Add the onion and cook till golden and translucent.  Buzz the spices to a powder.  Add the ghee to the pan, then the spices or instant masala.  Stir a little. The spices need to cook for a minute or two, only. 
I used home grown and super sweet Sungold tomatoes.

Meanwhile, put the tomato and sweet pepper into the blender, and liquefy. Add to the pan and stir.  Cover and simmer for about half an hour.  Taste.  I used the very sweet home grown Sungold tomatoes along with other home grown tomatoes.  I didn’t need jaggery, but if you’re using regular tomatoes, ask yourself if the flavour seems a bit bitter.  Add the jaggery if it is bitter.

Meanwhile, take the chicken out of the marinade.  I use my fingers to remove excess marinade, but more delicate types will use a spatula. Add all left over marinade to the spicy tomato mixture.  Continue to cook it at medium heat.

Traditional butter chicken is made in the tandoori.  A very expensive proposition in Canada.  If you are not a millionaire, use your barbecue to cook the chicken.  On 350 F heat, it should cook in about twenty minutes, ten per side.  If you have no barbecue, brown it in a pan with a bit of butter or ghee on high heat, then cook it through at medium heat, about twenty minutes.

Remove the chicken and add to the sauce and cooked marinade.  Add the cream and taste.  You may be happy with a little cream, or you may go crazy and add a lot.  I recommend a lot.
Use as much cream as you dare.  You only live once...

Serve over basmati rice, with perhaps a little cilantro for garnish.  Oh my goodness.  For the ladies, I used only three Thai chilies, carefully seeded, and no Kashmiri chilies in the sauce.  Not hot enough.  Go ahead and go for the gusto.  If it’s too hot, serve a little mango lassi on the side.  Who doesn’t like that? 

Sweet, mild, irresistable butter chicken.  Easy or complicated, it's up to you!

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