Butter Chicken

***NOTE***  This recipe has been updated as of September 2019 to improve efficiency and flavor.

After tweeting to Chef Suzy Singh, a fellow MasterChef contestant, that I was making Butter Chicken (a dish she made on the show) I received numerous tweets asking for my Butter Chicken recipe.  While I’m entirely certain it’s not as good as Suzy’s recipe, this is how I make the famous, rich, explosively flavorful Indian dish….  It’s best to start the night before you make it, but not required.

2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast or thighs (I prefer thighs because they are juicier and more flavorful and CHEAPER!), cut into bite sized pieces.  (Kitchen scissors work best for this.)

Put the chicken in a large ziploc bag and add:

2 Tablespoons kosher salt (or 1 Tablespoon table salt)
1 Tablespoon chili powder (any style will do if you don’t have Indian chili powder)
juice of 3 limes

Remove as much air from the bag as possible and squeeze the juice and spices around to thoroughly coat the chicken.  Place in the fridge for 1 hour.  In a bowl, combine:

2 Tablespoons garam masala (important for authentic flavor, but if you don’t have it, substitute 2 extra Tablespoons curry powder)
1 Tablespoon coriander powder
1 Tablespoon cardamom
1 Tablespoon cumin powder
1 Tablespoon curry powder
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Place the spices into a small pan that has been preheating on medium heat, and constantly toss or stir until spices are fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Remove and combine with:

2 cups yogurt (I prefer full fat goat yogurt, but ANY yogurt will work)

Stir well and add to the ziploc bag with the chicken.  Squeeze to mix.  Marinate at least 1 hour, preferably overnight or all day before cooking.

In a large heavy pot (I use an enameled cast iron pot) over medium high heat, saute in olive oil:

2 onions, chopped (any color)

After the onions become translucent, add:

3 Tablespoons ginger garlic paste (you can buy this in a jar at Indian markets, or make your own with 1 inch of fresh ginger, peeled, and 6 cloves of fresh garlic, peeled, processed into a paste in the food processor or mortar/pestle)

Saute for 3 minutes until fragrant.  Raise heat to high, then add:

1 quart chicken stock
1 large (28oz) can crushed tomatoes

Bring to a boil, lower heat to medium-low, and simmer uncovered for 1 hour, total, or until the gravy is reduced by half, stirring occasionally.

Remove the marinating chicken and yogurt from the fridge and let the bag sit on the countertop about 20 minutes before your gravy has finished reducing, to take the chill off it.  Once the gravy is reduced, raise the temp to medium high and add the bag of chicken and spiced yogurt and stir until everything is completely combined.  Bring to a simmer, and reduce to medium.  Cook for 5 minutes (for chicken breast) or 20 minutes (for thigh meat).

Then add:

1 stick unsalted butter
2-4 Tablespoons honey, to taste
salt, to taste (and perhaps a squeeze of lime or dash of vinegar, if the dish needs a little zing)

Simmer a few more minutes and serve over basmati rice.  This dish tastes even better a day or two after its been sitting in the fridge, and it makes a lot, so you should have leftovers unless you’re feeding a crowd.  This is a GREAT dish to introduce people who have little or no experience with Indian food.  Virtually everyone will gobble it up, it’s not very spicy…it just tastes AMAZING!

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