Unlike some parts of the country, here in Pittsburgh we are still waiting for spring. Which means I can squeeze in one more post for a warm, hearty, great-for-cold-weather Indian curry.
If you poll my children, all five of them will list this curry in their top three favorite foods, with several of them ranking it right at the top. It is also the recipe that I am most often asked to share. Unfortunately, the ingredient list is a little bit intimidating and some friends never end up making it for themselves. Hopefully a little explanation will make this recipe not seem so intimidating.
There are a few spices and ingredients in this recipe that cannot usually be found in regular grocery stores. Some of the spices below I can get in my local store, some I buy from Penzey’s (which we have locally in Pittsburgh, but they also have an online store) and some at a local Indian grocery store.
Kasoori methi is an herb that is also known by the name fenugreek. Kasoori Methi (sometimes spelled kasuri methi) is the leaves of the plant, while “fenugreek” often refers to the ground seeds of the plant, but I have also seen leaves labeled “fenugreek”. I prefer the flavor of the leaves, which I have only found at an Indian market (online Indian stores sell them as well).
The Tandoori paste I also buy at the Indian store. Tandoori pastes vary a lot in color, depending on brand, from a bright orange-red to a very deep red. I don’t really have a preference. They all taste pretty similar. Just be sure to buy tandoori paste and not a tandoori marinade, which will be thinner and usually have a dairy component. The jar shown above is pretty large (26 oz) and will make several batches. I marinate the chicken in the Tandoori paste in Ziploc bags; a few hours at least, overnight for the best flavor. Since our family really loves this curry, I freeze extra bags with the chicken and Tandoori paste for using another day. I prepare as many bags as the jar of paste will make. I usually make double batches of this curry, and the large jar shown above will make 3-4 double batches. Buy a smaller jar if you don’t want quite that much!
The batch of Butter Chicken in the above photo was made with a Tandoori paste that was orange-red in color, while the one below was made with the Tandoori paste shown above, which has a very deep red hue.
Once you have your ingredients, it really is easy to prepare: tomatoes, onions, garlic, chilies and the spices are blended together in a blender or food processor-no chopping necessary! Add to a pot with a little butter, cream and tomato sauce and you have your curry base. To make it extra flavorful, the chicken is marinated in tandoori paste (I like to do this the day before, or even weeks before, and leave it in the freezer until I am ready to make the curry). Over the years I have found that it is easiest to marinate whole boneless chicken breasts (I really dislike chopping raw chicken), bake them and then coarsely chop them with a metal spatula right in the baking pan. The cooked chicken is then stirred into the curry sauce and simmered for 10-15 minutes, or as long as it takes you to finish baking your Naan bread.
Indian Butter Chicken can be eaten over rice, or on its own with Naan.
Tomorrow I will share my Naan recipe, which Little J loves to help me make.
4-6 chicken breasts, diced*(see note on alternate chicken prep)
¼ cup Tandoori paste
1 (15oz) can whole or diced tomatoes
1 onion, quartered
2 cloves garlic
2-3 Tbs diced green chilies (about ½ can)
1 ¼ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 tsp fresh ginger (or ½ tsp ground)
1 tsp red Kashmiri chili powder
½ tsp garam masala
½ tsp kasoori methi (fenugreek leaves)
¼ tsp turmeric
¼ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp cardamom
1/8 tsp ground red pepper (cayenne); add more for a spicier curry
½ cup butter (1 stick)
1 (15oz) can tomato sauce
2 cups heavy cream
Combine chicken, tandoori paste and 2 Tbs water in a Ziploc bag. Marinate several hours or overnight.
Combine tomatoes, onion, garlic, chilies, and spices in a blender or food processor; blend until smooth.
Melt butter in a large pot. Add blended tomato mixture, tomato sauce and cream. Bring to gentle boil; simmer 20 minutes.
While sauce is simmering: Spread chicken in a single layer on a shallow rimmed baking sheet. Bake chicken at 350°F for 20 minutes. Stir chicken and any sauce in the pan into sauce mixture on the stove. Cook for 10-15 minutes longer.
Serve over rice and/or with Naan bread.
*Alternate chicken prep: do not cut chicken; use chicken tenderloins or whole breasts. Mix with tandoori paste and water (if using high water content chicken, skip the water). Roast until cooked through, 20-25 minutes. Use a metal spatula to cut chicken into chunks on the baking sheet. Then stir into the curry.
TO FREEZE: Prepare chicken as above; freeze raw, marinated chicken in a Ziploc bag. Blend sauce ingredients as directed above; place in Ziploc bag. Add melted butter, tomato sauce and cream to sauce bag. Freeze.
TO PREPARE AFTER FREEZING: Thaw chicken and sauce. Bake chicken in a shallow pan at 350°F for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, bring sauce to gentle boil; simmer 20 minutes. Add cooked chicken to sauce and cook 10-15 minutes longer. Serve over rice and/or with Naan bread.