Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Recipe: Indian Butter Chicken (Chicken Makhani)

Everyone loves a good butter chicken! There is a reason why it is the most often ordered Indian dish - I love how even traditional dishes like this seem to fuse different cuisines together. Part of my psyche believes that this is inspired by French cooking techniques, which makes sense, as French occupied the Southeastern coast of India from the 1600-1800s. Butter Chicken, to me, actually resembles Chicken Blanquette. I use the term "resembles" as both dishes have chicken, butter, and cream, but that is where the similarities end. Butter Chicken is typically marinated in yogurt (or in my case, sour cream), where as Chicken Blaquette is dredged in flour or nothing at all.

After shopping at Costco over the weekend, we ended up with a freezer of food. Bread, sausages, chicken, and sandwich meat. The chicken was mine - originally I wanted to buy whole chickens for stock, poached chicken, and jerk chicken, but after seeing Ms contribution to the grocery cart / freezer I decided against it. After all, how much chicken can you possibly eat in two weeks??!

I had the chicken marinating in sour cream and spices, but I wasn't sure what I'd serve with it. It was a good coincidence then, that Angie at Sea Salt with Food posted a recipe for Cauliflower with Cumin and Asafetida. After all, did I not mention that I had bought a *huge* cauliflower at Costco as well?

When I got home, I started the brown rice first (since it cooked the longest - about 40 minutes! Then I got started on the cauliflower. I didn't have asafetida (but now I know where to get it!) so I used a generous sprinkling of garlic powder. Then I started off sauteeing the chicken. It turned out to be a great meal and I enjoyed all of it - making it, tasting it, eating it. We have leftovers for tonight!

Ingredients - Marinade
1 cup sour cream
2 t cumin powder
1 t cinnamon
2 t cayenne
2 t black pepper
1 T ginger powder
1 t garlic powder
1 t kosher salt
6-8 skinless boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2" cubes
Juice of half a lemon

The night before, combine marinade ingredients in a non-reactive container (I used a tempered glass container). Refrigerate overnight.

Ingredients - Gravy
2 T vegetable oil or butter
1/4 cup chopped onion
3-5 cloves of garlic, minced
1" of ginger, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1 tomato, diced
2-4 t ground cumin
1 t coriander
1 dried red chili, crushed (optional - I'd take this out next time)
2 t paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup half and half cream
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

Heat 2 T of vegetable oil over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook chicken in batches, about 2-3 minutes per side. Reserve chicken.

In the same pan, over medium heat, saute onion, garlic, and ginger until fragrant. Add jalapeno pepper and tomato, cook 1-2 minutes. Add cumin, coriander, chili and paprika. Stir until spices are slightly toasted, and a thick paste is formed.

Add chicken pieces; stir, cover and allow to cook over medium-low to medium heat for 10-15 minutes. Uncover and stir in cream; heat over low heat until warmed through.

Serve over rice, garnished with chopped cilantro.

The smell of everything cooking up was amazing. I did lower the temperature of the cauliflower to 400ºF (that was plenty hot. I was so excited I nearly got a steam burn on my hand!!). I loved how pretty the cauliflower looked out of the oven. Yellow from the turmeric, slightly toasted from the heat of the oven. It was a great accompaniment to the butter chicken!

The butter chicken was a little spicier than I expected (I got heavy handed apparently), so next time I'd omit the dried red chili in the gravy. There's still a little to tweak here and there, but for the meanwhile, this is a nice homey recipe to fall back on. Here's to fusion food pioneers!

More photos at my flickr photo set.

Related sources:
All Recipes 1
All Recipes 2
All Recipes 3


  1. This looks so delicious! I've never had butter chicken before, but have always wanted to try it. I've come to really like cauliflower.

  2. The butter chicken look fantastic! I like the cauliflower side.

  3. It looks delicious and good on you for making it from scratch! Butter chicken is one of those dishes that everyone loves :)


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