This recipe for delicious butter chicken is one that will become a staple in your recipe collection if you like Indian food. Butter chicken is a classic curry dish and a favorite all over the world. It’s made with chicken marinated in yogurt, lemon and spices, then grilled or cooked in a tandoor, and finally simmered in a tomato based curry sauce. Served over rice, it is one of the best Indian dishes there is. This is my version, which is quite easy to make, and yields delicious butter chicken.
Cooking time: 1 hour (plus marinating time)
For the marinade:
2 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
salt & pepper
1 1/4 cup full-fat Greek style yogurt
1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp turmeric
1 Tbsp garam masala
1 Tbsp red chile powder or cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp grated or minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
For the sauce:
6 Tbsp ghee or unsalted butter, divided
2 tsp fenugreek seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 bay leaves
3 cardamom pods, lightly smashed
2 whole cloves
1 3-inch cinnamon stick
1 large onion, diced
1 Tbsp ginger, minced or grated
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp garam masala
2 tsp red chile powder or cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp sugar (or to taste)
salt to taste
fresh cilantro leaves
Make the marinade by mixing together all ingredients except the chicken. Salt and pepper the chicken thighs on both sides, then put in the marinade in either a bowl or a ziplock bag. Marinate for 3 hours to overnight (overnight is better).
In a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt 4 Tbsp ghee over medium heat, then add the fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds, bay leaves, cardamom pods, cloves and cinnamon stick. Cook for several minutes until slightly darkened. Add the onion, salt lightly, and cook 4-5 minutes until onion is browning lightly. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Add the garam masala and chile powder and cook for another minute or so. Add the crushed tomatoes, and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
While the sauce is cooking, either grill the chicken over a medium fire or broil them in the oven until brown spots are consistently visible on all the thighs, about 3-5 minutes per side. [If you broil them, line a large baking sheet with foil, and place a wire rack on top. Put the chicken thighs (let excess marinade drip off) on the rack, and place directly under the broiler in your oven on high heat.] The chicken will not be cooked through, and that’s ok…it will finish cooking in the sauce. Cut the chicken into 1″ cubes and set aside.
Finish the sauce. Discard the cinnamon stick and bay leaves, but leave the other whole spices. Purée the mixture in a blender, in batches if needed, until smooth. [Note that puréeing hot mixtures can be dangerous…do it in small batches and let a bit of air/steam escape while blending.] Return to the pot and add the remaining 2 Tbsp of ghee/butter and the cream. Add the sugar, taste for seasoning, and add salt and pepper as needed. Add the chicken pieces, and cook until chicken is cooked through, 8-10 minutes.
Serve over cooked basmati rice, and sprinkle with cilantro leaves as garnish.