Butter Chicken

IMG_3094IMG_9960Butter Chicken
adapted from The New York Times

Ingredients

  • 1 cup full-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into large chunks
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large sweet onion, peeled and sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced or grated
  • 2 tablespoons minced or grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 jalapeno (red or green) or serrano pepper, seeded and finely diced
  • kosher salt to taste
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 2 ounces ground almonds (optional)
  • Chopped cilantro, for serving
  • Basmati rice and/or naan, for serving

Method

Whisk together the yogurt, lemon juice, turmeric, garam masala and cumin in a large bowl. Put the chicken in, and coat with the marinade. Cover, and refrigerate (for up to a day).

Melt the butter in a large deep pan over medium heat. Add the onions, and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent. Add the garlic, ginger and cumin seeds, and cook until the onions start to brown.

Add the cinnamon stick, tomato sauce, chile pepper and salt, and cook until the chile pepper is soft, about 2 minutes.

Add the chicken and marinade to the pan, and cook for 2 minutes, then add the chicken stock. Bring the mixture to a boil, then turn the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

Stir in the half and half and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Add the almonds, if using, and cook for another minute, then remove from heat. Garnish with cilantro and serve over basmati rice and/or with naan on the side.

NOTES

HOLY. CRAP. SO. GOOD.

So, butter chicken. For years, I never bothered to make it because I thought it was just like chicken tikka masala – marinate in lemon, yogurt, spices, cook with more spices, chile pepper, tomato, and cream. Same, right? NOPE. NOPENOPENOPE. I could not have been more mistaken.

This is, hands down, now my favorite Indian dish of all time. I cannot properly explain how complex and delicious and wonderful and amazing this is. Make it. You will not be disappointed.

Keema Matar

Keema Matar
(literally: mincemeat and peas)

Ingredients

1 tablespoon grapeseed or olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, diced fine
4 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
1-1/2 pounds ground chicken or lamb
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne (or to taste)
1 14.5-oz can petite diced tomatoes
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup frozen peas
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 cup minced cilantro

Method

In a large deep skillet, warm oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until golden. Add garlic and ginger, and saute for another minute. Add meat, breaking up lumps with a wooden spoon, and saute until meat is no longer pink.

Add the spices, and cook for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, water and salt. Stir well and simmer, partially covered, about 10 minutes. Stir in the peas, and cook another 2 minutes, until heated through.

Stir in the vinegar and finish with the cilantro. Serve with warm pita and/or basmati rice.

NOTES

Another dish from my favorite Indian place that compelled me to try my own hand at it – and it only took me two tries to get it how I wanted it! Crazy good. Quick and simple, huge on flavor: the best kind of weeknight meal.

Both times I’ve made it I’ve used chicken, but I promised Steve I would try it with lamb next. Lamb is more traditional and I also think it would be a good testing of the waters to see if might like lamb these days. We shall see!

Chicken and Vegetable Cashew Korma

Chicken and Vegetable Cashew Korma

Ingredients

1/2 cup cashews
1 can light coconut milk
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1-1/4 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 large sweet onion, finely diced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
2 medium potatoes (about 1 lb), peeled and cubed
2 medium carrots, sliced into coins
2 teaspoons each coriander, cumin
1 teaspoon each cardamom, curry powder, turmeric, paprika
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
1 cup water
6-oz. container plain yogurt
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 cup frozen peas

Method

Put cashews and coconut milk in a blender and blend until very smooth. Set aside.

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large saute pan on medium heat. Add chicken and saute until just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add onions and saute 3 minutes, until soft. Add ginger and garlic and saute 2 minutes more.

Add potatoes, carrots, spices, salt, and sugar and stir to combine. Stir in tomato sauce and water. Bring to a boil on medium heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender (test one with a fork).

Stir in yogurt and cashew/coconut milk mixture. Turn heat to medium and cook uncovered another 10 minutes, until sauce thickens. Stir in peas and cook for another minute, until heated through.

Sprinkle in cilantro and serve with basmati rice or naan.

NOTES

This was the biggest hit at my birthday dinner party this year and it’s my favorite kind of meal: easy to cook, stunningly delicious, and large but healthy portion. You could easily make this vegetarian, too, substituting the chicken with more potatoes, cauliflower, chickpeas, etc.

I am so pleased to be adding to my Indian repertoire!

Tandoori Chicken

Tandoori Chicken

Ingredients

2 lb skinless, boneless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon Kosher salt
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/2 small red onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon hot paprika
1/2 tablespoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon cayenne

Optional for serving: cooked rice, cilantro, crushed chiles

Method

Pulse the lemon juice, yogurt, oil, onion, garlic, ginger, tomato paste, coriander, cumin, paprika, garam masala, cayenne, and salt in a food processor to make a paste. Make shallow cuts in the chicken thighs with a sharp knife and place in a large bowl. Pour the mixture over the chicken, toss to coat, and let marinate at least 1 hour (preferably overnight).

Preheat the broiler. Place the chicken on a foil-lined broiler pan and cook, turning once, until slightly charred and a thermometer inserted into the center registers 165 degrees F, about 8 minutes per side.

Serve over rice and top with cilantro and crushed chiles, if desired.

NOTES

This was the first of many recipes I am attempting to add to my Indian repertoire and it was a huge success first time out. It was so delicious I ended up making it three weeks in a row. And yes, I know this isn’t traditional tandoori (I don’t have a tandoor, so hey, obviously), but it is a damn tasty recreation!

Chicken and Vegetable Coconut Curry

Chicken and Vegetable Coconut Curry
adapted from Very Culinary

Ingredients

1-1/4 lb boneless, skinless, chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tablespoon grapeseed or other neutral oil
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1 small bell pepper, chopped
1 cup julienned or chopped carrots
8 ounces snow peas, ends trimmed, large ones cut in half
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon mild curry powder
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 can (8 ounce) pineapple chunks, drained, juice reserved
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 15-ounce can light coconut milk

Method

In a large nonstick pan, heat oil over medium-high. Add chicken and saute until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove chicken to a bowl and set aside.

Add onion, bell pepper, carrots, snow peas, ginger, garlic, curry powder, salt and red pepper flakes to the pan. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes until vegetables are crisp-tender.

In a small bowl, whisk together the pineapple juice and cornstarch until dissolved. Add the mixture, along with the pineapple chunks, coconut milk, and reserved chicken to the pan. Simmer for 5 minutes or until thickened; stir gently.

Serve over jasmine rice with extra red pepper flakes or Sriracha on the side.

NOTES

This is MAGNIFICENT. I never really thought about blending Indian curry powder with coconut milk, which I tend to associate with Thai curries, but holy wow. Steve and I both flipped for this. Flipped, I tell ya!

It’s been a while (my archive indicates eight months) since I was able to add another stir fry or curry to my permanent repertoire and I’m thrilled. I owe you one, Amy!

Aloo Matar with Chicken

Indian cuisine purists, look away now. I know aloo matar is not “supposed” to have chicken, but in an attempt to get my husband to eat this for dinner with me, I added in the protein. Don’t kill me!

Aloo Matar with Chicken

Ingredients

1 1/4 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
4 teaspoons ground cumin
4 teaspoons ground coriander
4 teaspoons garam masala
2 teaspoons turmeric powder
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne (or to taste)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons grated ginger
4 large cloves grated garlic
2 large bay leaves
2 large Russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 cups water
1 15-oz. can petite diced tomatoes, with juices
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/3 cups frozen peas
Fresh chopped cilantro and crushed red chile, for serving
Cooked basmati rice and/or naan, for serving

Method

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the chicken and cook until browned and nearly cooked through, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove to a bowl, leaving the pan coated with the chicken fat. Set aside.

Turn the heat down to medium and add the mustard seeds. As soon as they start popping (which should happen pretty quickly), add in all the other spices. Stir in the onions, ginger, garlic and bay leaves. Cook until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes (see cooking notes). Add the potatoes, stir to coat with the spices, then add 4 cups water, scraping the bottom of the pan until all the cooked spices are mixed in.

Cover the pan, return to the heat to medium high, and gently boil until potatoes are halfway done, about 10 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, sugar and salt. Continue simmering, covered, for another 10 minutes or so, until the potatoes are soft but still holding their shape. Return reserved chicken to the pan. Add peas and simmer until peas are bright green and tender, another 1-2 minutes.

Remove bay leaves. Serve over rice and garnish with fresh cilantro and crushed chile as desired.

NOTES

Oh my. Oh my oh my oh my. This was savory and complex and wonderful and just every dang thing I wanted it to be when I set out to recreate aloo matar at home – not an easy task.

I often order aloo matar (potato and pea curry) from the place my sister and I meet for lunch every other week (India Chaat Cafe) and have been so impressed with their version I wanted to replicate it for inclusion in my lifelong repertoire. My first attempt was, um, mediocre. Dry, bland, not right. I was frustrated and perplexed.

I went through the recipe I used with one of the staff members I frequently chat with at the restaurant, to determine what I could have done differently. The only clue I got out of it was to add bay leaves. Noted, but still not the whole story. I ordered it once more that day and tried to commit to memory everything I loved about it. I was on a mission!

I went hunting online for a recipe that fit my wants (if you cook as often as I do, you “know it when you see it,” know what I mean?), but turned up nothing. So, like my Thai red curry chicken, I took the next necessary step and created my own recipe, a fact of which I am intensely proud. Adding bay leaves was a great idea. So was adding ground coriander. However, I think the biggest issue was the paltry amount of seasoning I used the first time. I mean, hey, there are times cooks should use a light touch… but heaven knows one of those times is NOT while making Indian curries.

I’m thrilled that I finally have a viable second option for Indian at home (the first being my chicken tikka masala). Now if I could just get vindaloo right…

Cooking notes:

1. You will find that during the step where the onion, garlic, etc. are cooking in the pan, everything gets pretty dry and the bottom of the pan will probably have a coat of dry spices sticking to it. Feel free to add a bit of oil if this bothers you, but I prefer not to and I am able to scrape everything up when I pour in the water. Why add oil if you don’t need to, right? That’s my philosophy, anyway.

2. If you want to make this a true aloo matar, no chicken, you could heat a couple of teaspoons of oil over medium heat and start with the mustard seeds step. Voila. Vegetarian entree.

Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala

Ingredients

Marinade

1 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 to 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into large cubes

Sauce

1 tablespoon butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno chile, minced
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon salt
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1/2 cup half and half
1 cup water
1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro
Crushed red chile (optional, can be found in most Asian markets)

Method

In a large bowl, combine yogurt, lemon juice, grated ginger, 2 teaspoons cumin, cinnamon, cayenne and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir in chicken, cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Put chicken on a foil-lined baking sheet and cook in oven for 25 minutes, until cooked through.

Melt the butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and jalapeno and stir for 1 minute. Stir in the ground coriander, 1 teaspoon cumin, paprika, garam masala and 1 teaspoon salt. Add the tomato sauce, half and half and water and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes.

Add the cooked chicken with all the accumulated juices (don’t omit that!) to the sauce and let simmer for another 10 minutes. Garnish with chopped cilantro (and crushed red chile, if desired).

Serve over basmati or jasmine rice.

NOTES

Man. Oh. Man. This is chicken tikka masala, *perfected*. Slightly sweet, slightly spicy, intensely rich and savory. Tikka masala nirvana. I can’t imagine it getting any better than this.

Update May 2014: To bulk it up even more, add peas. Delicious!