Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Butter Chicken

For some reason, cooking Indian food has always proved an enigma to me. Even the cheapest, sketchiest takeout joints seem to serve up dishes that just sparkle with flavour and richness that I've found really tough to replicate in the kitchen. I used to secretly attribute the discrepancy to the fact that these cheap takeout joints have some magical access to ingredients I don't have. Or maybe they just use an obscene amount of oil, salt, and butter? Or maybe I'm just not cut out for cooking Indian food?

Happily, it was none of the above! I dug up this butter chicken recipe while browsing the internet and a couple parts of it appealed to me. The chicken is marinated for 24 hours in a salty yogurt marinade, and then roasted and finished off by simmering it in a buttery, fragrant tomato sauce. The spices weren't exactly just sitting in the pantry, but they weren't so exotic that I'd couldn't find them at the neighborhood grocery store.

I realize that 'Butter Chicken' maybe isn't the most authentic or challenging of Indian dishes, but I'm really glad this one came out well and I'm looking forward to trying out some more exotic dishes. My favourites including palak paneer, chana daal (chickpea curry), and, of course, naan, which will hopefully be on Chocolate Shavings in the near future!

A couple notes: For the marinade, make sure you avoid low-fat yogurt. For the coriander, cumin and fenugreek, try and use freshly ground spices. Grind them in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Use good quality chicken, and don't be afraid to use all thighs, or all legs, depending on what you have on hand.



Adapted from Vijay Bist's Recipe in Secrets of Success Cookbook
by Michael Bauer

One chicken, cut up into 2 breasts, 2 thighs, 2 legs, skin is optional
Juice of 2 lemons
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 cups plain yogurt
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 1/4 teaspoons minced garlic
2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon garam masala

1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon of curry powder
Pinch of garam masala
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
2 cups canned chopped tomatoes with juices
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cups of water
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons ground fenugreek
Fresh Coriander, for garnish

Rinse the chicken and pat it dry. Place the pieces in a large, heavy duty ziploc bag and add the lemon juice and salt. It looks like a lot of salt, but most of it will be discarded with the marinade. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, making sure it's well covered by the marinade. While that's in the fridge, mix together the yogurt, coriander, cumin, garlic, ginger, 2 tablespoons of cream and the garam masala. Add the yogurt mix to the ziploc bag, agitate it a little to mix it in with the lemon juice. Refridgerate over night.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees fahrenheit. Take the chicken out of the marinade and discard the marinade. wipe off any excess marinade and place the pieces on a rack in the oven with an aluminum coated baking sheet underneat to catch the fat. Elevating the meat helps to cook the chicken uniquely by dry heat without having it simmer in its own fat. Cook for about 30 minutes until the chicken is almost entirely cooked through.

Mix together the ground ginger, brown sugar, curry powder, garam masala, nutmeg, and pepper. For the sauce, mix together heat up the butter in a large saucepan. Add the tomatoes with their juice, the spices, the tomato paste and the water. Turn the heat up to medium and simmer for 20 minutes before removing from the heat.

When the chicken has cooled off, cut it into bite size pieces and get rid of the bones. Keep the drumsticks if you want. Add the chicken, cream and fenugreek to the sauce and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve with basmati rice or naan bread and garnish with minced coriander.

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