From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...I appreciate irony. We spent weeks in India, and while chicken stroganoff was featured every evening, we never once were served the famous Indian butter chicken, murgh makhani. The dish is popular in countries all over the world and its absence while we were in India was a bit strange and caused a giggle or two. I honestly believe it was absent from our menus because everyone assumed that someone else had served it and they were trying to please us by offering something new. The dish is made with chicken (murgh) that's marinated in a spicy yogurt sauce before being grilled or cooked in a clay oven, called a tandoor. The sauce (makhani) is made by combining butter, tomato puree and spices with fresh cream. It is my habit to prepare the most popular entrees of the countries we visit prior to an extended trip. It helps us to know what to expect and makes it much easier to adjust to a new cuisine. Butter chicken was one of the dishes I learned to make before we left for India. We have one small Indian restaurant in our community and I used their chicken as my point of comparison. I found an extremely simple recipe developed by Carla Fitzgerald Williams and used that as my base. Her recipe differs from most, in that it uses a deli rotisserie chicken to emulate the texture of the tandoor chicken used in more traditional recipes. I have three recipes for butter chicken. I use this one only when authenticity is not a concern. It's quick, easy and very flavorful. I offer it here for those of you who have never tried butter chicken. This is a wonderful introduction to Indian cuisine. It is much kinder to a beginner's palate than some of the other dishes you might be tempted to try. Garam masala, described here, is the dominant spice mix in this sauce. You should be able to find it in the spice aisle of any major grocery chain. This is a really nice recipe. You can find extensive reviews of it, here. Here's the recipe.
Indian Butter Chicken...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of Carla Fitzgerald Williams
1 tablespoon garam masala seasoning
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
3 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 teaspoons jarred minced garlic
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
1 skinless rotisserie chicken, boned out and pulled into 1-1/2 by 1/2-inch chunks or shredded
1 (10-ounce) box frozen peas, placed in a colander and run under hot water to thaw
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
Optional: Hot basmati rice, pita bread
1) To make spice blend: Stir ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.
2) To make sauce: Melt butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until pieces just begin to turn gold, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, tomato paste and spice blend. Cook for 1 minute until spices are fragrant, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Add tomato sauce and diced tomatoes and stir will. Add chicken pieces, spoon sauce over the top and bring to a simmer. Turn heat to low and cook, uncovered, until the chicken is warmed through and the sauce is flavorful, about 10 minutes. Stir frequently. Remove the chicken to a serving dish and cover to keep warm.
3) To finish: Shake any excess water from peas. Add peas and cream to sauce in the pan, stir well and heat through. Do not boil. Spoon sauce over chicken. Serve with rice and warmed pita bread. Yield: 4 to 5 servings.
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