link). Butter chicken is probably the single most popular dish in Indian restaurants in Vancouver, which is actually a little bit sad, because it means that almost every restaurant (don't worry, I do know there are exceptions) feels the need to keep one on the menu, however indifferent to it they might be. I've had a fair number of wretched ones, and almost never order it out, anymore. The good news is that it is a very easy dish to make, although the recipe looks a bit daunting. Some of that is the list of ingredients, but in all fairness most of those are spices.
I've updated and streamlined my recipe since the original one was posted on my old, non-blog recipe site (here).
Butter Chicken (2011)
Serves 4 - 6
Total Prep & Cooking time: 45 to 60 minutes
8 boneless, skinless raw chicken thighs
2 tablespoons hot tandoori masala
14.5 oz / 398 ml can diced tomatoes, with juices
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons canola oil
3 bay leaves
1 inch of ginger root, peeled
3 large cloves of garlic
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons natural cashew butter (unsalted)
1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup cream
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
cilantro to garnish optional
Sprinkle tandoori masala evenly on both sides of the skinless chicken pieces and let them rest while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Prepare and measure out all ingredients ahead of time: this is not a chop-as-you-go endeavour. Use little bowls or plates to get organized. Items that are added at the same time can be put in the same bowl.
Ginger, garlic and onions can be finely ground together in a blender or food processor. You want them very finely minced, but not completely pureed. Scrape down the sides as necessary, to ensure a fine texture. Remove to a bowl, so they're ready to add when needed. Puree the tomatoes separately, with their liquid, and put them in a separate bowl (an immersion blender works well for this.
Heat the butter and oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat, until the butter is melted and the pan is hot. Add the bay leaves, the onion/ginger/garlic paste, and fry, stirring often, until golden brown and all water has evaporated. Don't let it burn. Add the tomato puree, chile powder, salt and sugar, and fry until the water has all evaporated and the oil separates out into shiny orange-y droplets. This can take up to 10 minutes, so be patient and stir a lot. The mixture will be quite thick, almost dry.
Add the cashew paste and continue to stir and fry another few seconds, and then add the milk and water slowly, stirring the whole time, and raise the heat to bring the mixture to a boil. The sauce should be thick and almost custard-y in texture. You can always add more water later, if needed.
When the sauce has come to a boil, turn the burner to low. Shake any excess tandoori masala from the chicken, and slide the pieces gently into the pan, and spoon the sauce over each piece. Cover and simmer very gently for 25 minutes (you can also do this in the oven at 350℉, if you need the stovetop), stirring half-way through. Remove the chicken pieces carefully from the sauce and roughly chop the meat into large bite-sized pieces. Return the chicken pieces to the pan and stir into the sauce. Over medium heat, add the cream and garam masala, and cook for a further 5 minutes, until heated through. Garnish with cilantro, if you like.
I should also note that the sauce freezes beautifully, should you have any left (or if you only have a smaller amount of chicken - you can still make the whole recipe of suace, and then freeze the leftover). When you want to use it, simply defrost and heat in a skillet, slide more masala-rubbed chicken into it, simmer, and serve. Just like one of those ready-to-use sauces, but at a fraction of the cost, and much, much better.
The sauce on its own would make a pretty awesome pizza sauce, don't you think? Leftover chicken can also be mixed with rice and vegetables (curry-roasted cauliflower, for example) and wrapped in a roti or tortilla as a freezer-friendly stash of homemade goodness.
While not strictly correct, I've also had good luck substituting quality peanut butter for the cashew butter. I'm currently very impressed by the Nuts To You organic smooth peanut butter (unsalted), which may be the best I've ever had.