Sunday, May 13, 2012

Butter Chicken

Dale and I were introduced to butter chicken at his farewell lunch from his section at Fort Carson.  They chose an Indian restaurant that was very good and one of the officers that was being "farwelled" along with him told us about his favorite dish...butter chicken.  We ordered it and thought it was very good!

When we were going through Trader Joe's we picked up butter chicken in the frozen dinner form that had a serving of chicken with sauce and basamati rice.  It was pretty good as well, but I thought it was a bit expensive for the portions.  Of course I thought to myself "I could make this!"  So I did.

It's fairly inexpensive, but only once you've made your garam masala mix.  This is a blend of spices that makes one super spice blend that's just heavenly.  It can be a bit costly, but then again, spices are costly, as they have always been throughout the existence of civilization.  I had some spices on hand, but I think it would be best to start fresh and grind your own when you can.  Once you whip up your garam masala you can keep it for all sorts of future Indian dishes so the initial cost does go a long way.  Plus if you do buy spices in their whole form, you can make little batches and keep that.  The whole form spices store longer and are fresher and more pungent when you grind them.  It's up to you.  I'm a bit lazy and just whipped up a whole lot of it.

Super Easy Garam Masala
(12 servings)

I tripled the recipe below (so that's 36 servings) and sealed it in a container for later use and used whole spices and ground them in my Bullet!  Yes, the one AS SEEN ON TV!  You could use a clean coffee bean grinder, but be sure to grind them fine.

1 T ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp ground cardamon (this comes in pods and you have to shell them first and grind the seeds inside; totally worth it)
1 1/2 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Put all ingredients in an airtight container and shake until thoroughly mixed.

Chicken Makhani (Indian Butter Chicken)
(serves 4)

I doubled the below recipe when I made it, but prepared them in two portions as my pan was way too small.  I put the first portion into a container and threw it into the freezer for another spicy Indian day.

For the Sauce:

1 T peanut oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/4 white onion, chopped
2 T butter
2 tsp lemon juice
1 T ginger garlic paste (I found separate tubes of ginger and garlic paste near the fresh herbs section at Safeway)
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup plain yogurt (fat free is fine)
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup tomato puree
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 pinch of salt
1 pinch black pepper

For the Chicken:

1 T peanut oil
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces (you can use breast meat, but I think dark meat tastes way, way, way better.  But that's just me.)
1 tsp garam masala (yup, more yet and so worth it)
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 T corn starch
1/4 cup cold water

*NOTE:  Mise en place...learn it.  Prep all your stuff before you start.  Chop and measure and all that jazz with all ingredients and then put them into small bowls and dishes.  You don't have to have a ton of dishes (I hate washing dishes) but you can put ingredients into groups by when you're going to use them.  For example: all of the spices were measure and put in a tiny bowl along with the bay leaf, and the ginger garlic paste was put in with the lemon juice.  You can see this in one of the photos.  Just use your best judgement.  Either way, doing this in some sort of order every time you cook helps make life in the kitchen so much easier, and it looks more impressive if you're cooking in front of an audience!  Read about mise en place in this past post.

In a large sauce pan (I had to swap out pans since the one I started out with was way too small!  Oh well, live and learn), heat up the peanut oil over medium heat.  Add your shallots and onion and cook until they are translucent (yes, the shallots are missing in my picture and if you can't get them, it's fine).  Add the butter, ginger garlic paste, all of the spices (for the sauce portion of the recipe) and the bay leaf.  Stir vigorously and cook for a minute or two.  The fragrance that will be wafting up and out of the pan, greeting your nose will be like nothing you have ever smelled!  It's pure Nirvana and will make the house smell wonderful.  When I was at this step I heard Dale exclaim from the other room, "WOW!  That smells great!"  Oh yeah!

Add the tomato puree and cook for a few more minutes, stirring frequently.  Stir in the yoghurt and the half-and-half and keep stirring until it has heated through.  Turn the heat down to low.  The sauce will looked curdled, but don't fret.  This is the reaction from adding dairy to something with acid (lemon juice).  Keep the faith.  Your dish will not be lost!  Simmer for about ten more minutes and stir frequently and add salt and pepper to taste.  Take this off the heat and set aside near your stove.  You'll be needing this in just a few minutes.  I added some dry chilies in the hopes I could make it even more hotter.  Yeah, I like to try to reach the highest heights of heat enlightenment!

In a large saute pan, heat up more peanut oil over medium-high heat.  Don't worry about it smoking.  Peanut oil can withstand super high temperatures.  Think about what you cook all of those deep-fried turkeys in!  Brown your chicken and then add the additional spices and stir.  More delicious aromas will fill the air.  Continue to brown your chicken and keep the heat where it's at.  All of this portion shouldn't really take much time.  Good thing you followed the mis en place guideline!

*NOTE: The next is my own method.  When I read the original recipe I was working off of, the method didn't really seam to make sense to achieve a thick and creamy sauce after looking at the sauce I had just made and set aside.  So I just followed my gut-instinct and did the following:

Ladle a portion (I have 1 cup ladles) of the sauce into the hot pan.  This will help deglaze the pan, pulling up all the lovely brown chickeny (that's a word that Julia Child liked to use and I'm rather fond of it) bits and stuff, and reduce the sauce.  Cook and reduce your sauce and stir constantly.  Don't worry, you won't burn it if you're awake and paying attention!  Keep adding the sauce by ladlefuls, all the time letting the sauce reduce more in between additions.  Once you get all of your sauce onto the chicken and it looks fairly creamy but it's still a bit runny, turn the heat off.  Stir up your cornstarch and water and pour this into your sauce and stir quickly.  Your sauce will thicken more and more and coat the chicken, making it look like it should.

I also added this last finish by stirring in a couple more tablespoons of butter (or more!) into the chicken and sauce.  It really does "round" out the finished dish and what the's BUTTER chicken after all!

Serve immediately over hot basamti rice and serve with naan if you have it.

This dish is definitely one I will remake!  Well, after I serve up the frozen portion later.  This does freeze beautifully and so does rice.  So, I made a bunch of rice for both of the meals.

Try cooking this one yourself!  Like I said, after you get done shelling out some cash for the base of spices for your own garam masala (or if you can find it already blended, even better!) your doorway to Indian cuisine has only just opened into a new world of flavor intensities!  You could probably do this vegetarian if you would like with cauliflower or that super-rubbery Indian cheese.  I'm not sure what that is...

Anyhoo, anyway you cook it, it's definitely an easy dish and sure to please most!  Enjoy!

आप का खाना स्वादिष्टहो (āp kā khānā svādiṣṭa ho) - good eating!

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