I've been interested in Indian food but feared it would be too hot, and the menus were intimidating because everything sounded the same. This changed in 2005, when my friend Todd Morin served me a simple, from scratch recipe of Butter Chicken which only consisted of a few ingredients (celery, onion, tomato paste, tandoori masala, whipping cream and fennel). He learned this recipe from an Indian family. I was instantly in love with the flavour and this was my gateway into Indian food.
Over the years I've developed this recipe myself following no tenants of authentic indian cooking and no formal recipe but it's so delicious I can't tell the difference. I have yet to find a restaurant that makes it better.
Butter Chicken makes for a hearty meal especially paired with Aloo Muttar and some fresh oven warmed naan. Warning, I make a lot because John loves it. Feel free to halve or quarter the recipe as needed but don't be surprised if this dish disappears.
Often the recipe evolves as I add whatever spices I think would suit.... but here's the current version.
Butter Chicken Recipe
8 skinless chicken thighs and 4 skinless chicken breasts
juice from one lime
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp tandoori masala - Suraj Brand sold at Superstore in ethnic aisle.
some cracked pepper.
Marinate chicken breasts with lime, olive oil, fresh cracked pepper and tandoori spice in a large ziplock bag. Push out air to seal.
Put on a Cyndi Lauper record and perform impromptu dance solo to Girl's Just Wanna Have Fun.
Go do something else. Leave to marinate 4-12 hours.
3 tablespoons of butter or ghee
1 medium onion, minced
2 stalks of celery, finely minced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
3 inches of fresh ginger, peeled then pulverized in a mortar or grated finely.
1 half cup of tomato sauce
1 cup canned tomatoes, diced
4 cups of whipping cream
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp hot chili powder
1 tsp turmeric (optional)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp paprika (optional)
1 tsp cardamom pod, bruised (optional)
1 tbsp fennel
3 tbsp Tandoori Masala
1 tbsp almond butter (optional)
fresh cilantro, chopped finely
Melt butter on high heat, and then saute onion, ginger, celery and garlic until soft. It's ok if the onion caramelizes to a dark brown. You just want to make everything soft so their flavours leech nicely into the sauce.
Add spices (cayenne, tandoori masala, turmeric, garam masala, cumin, fennel, chili powder, paprika, cardamom). Stir over hot heat for 30 secs to release the spices flavour.
Add tomato sauce and diced canned tomatoes - add juice from the tomatoes if you have it too. Stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium.
Add cream slowly, half cup at a time, stirring thoroughly but gently to combine before adding more. Simmer for 10-15 minutes on low low heat while you prepare the chicken. Stir occasionally.
Take marinated chicken out of the fridge, and BBQ or sear on a cast iron pan such that it's almost cooked but not quite (it'll finish cooking in the sauce) . This is an important step because if you overcook the chicken your finished butter chicken will be dry so do try to under cook it a bit.
Add semi-cooked chicken (You can cut it into cubes before adding to the sauce if you like so it's easier to eat later. I prefer to keep it whole so it's juicier) to pot of sauce and simmer 5 minutes until everything is hot and chicken feels firm.
Add spoon of sugar (secret ingredient! a bad habit from asian cooking). Add salt to taste. Finish with almond butter (optional) and top with finely chopped cilantro (recommended coz its so yum!).
Serve immediately, remove from heat (to keep from cooking the chicken anymore). It's traditional to serve on basmati rice, but I like to cook a mix of 1 cup white jasmine rice to 2 cups brown rice with a tablespoon of fennel because I prefer the texture and love the strong licorice fennel taste. Adjust spices to taste, I like a mild to medium hot spice level in my food and sometimes this mix comes out a little too hot for me. If it's too hot, you can add up to a cup of plain yoghurt to mellow it. If it's still too hot for you, add up to a cup of regular milk. The sauce tastes better the next day so left overs are a real treat.
I hope you enjoy this recipe and Todd, if you are reading this, I hope I've done you proud. ;)
Here's the rice cooker I have at home.
I love it. I can't imagine life without it - in fact I panicked about staying in an airbnb loft
w/ fully equipped kitchen for 2 weeks.
without it. Crazy right?
I like how effortless it is to
make congee when I'm sick.
The musical tone is one
of my favourite parts.