January 30, 2006

Chicken Makhani

Casting around for a recipe to use with chicken thighs, which I don't normally buy, but they were at a great sale price last week.... I came across several mentions of Chicken Makhani, by turns claimed as an Indian and Pakistani dish. I read several different variations (some with alternate spices), including the one in the Indian cookbook on my shelf, and finally decided to be a little less than absolutely authentic since I didn't have a tandoor oven. Or fenugreek leaves. Hence, the version below. While reading (particularly through an eGullet thread), I saw claims that supposedly, Butter Chicken was invented at Moti Mahal in Delhi during the 1950s to use up leftover Tandoori Chicken. However, there are also some who say that it originated in the Punjab region (which is now part of Pakistan) sans fenugreek and with the added spice of green chilies in the finish.

Chicken Makhani AKA Butter Chicken

14 oz. of chicken thighs (skinless & boneless)
1/2 cup of almonds, ground
1 onion
2 tsp of garlic, crushed
2 tsp of ginger, crushed
1/4 tsp of cinnamon
1/2 tsp of turmeric powder
1 tsp of red chili powder
1 TBSP of coriander powder
8 oz. pureed tomatoes (canned is okay)
1 TBSP of tomato paste
1/2 cup of plain yogurt, drained
3 TBSP of butter

Trim and cut the chicken into small cubes, cover and set aside. With a clean knife and board thinly slice the onions.

Heat a large saucepan or frying pan and melt the butter until it is frothy. Add the onions and the cinnamon to the pan and fry lightly. When the onions are soft stir in the crushed garlic and ginger. Then add the turmeric, chili powder and coriander powder, and saute over medium heat (2-3 minute or until the air begins to smell fragrant). The spices are fried first to release their maximum flavour and this really enhances the dish.

Add the cubed chicken and saute stirring constantly until the chicken has turned white. Pour in the ground almonds, pureed tomatoes and tomato paste. Mix thoroughly. Cover and simmer for 25 minutes. Add the yogurt and heat through. Serve over rice.

Notes: I did like how this came out, authentic or not. It had a nice blend of flavors. And the chicken was super tender. I didn't find out about the adding the chilies until it was too late to run back out and get them, so if/when I make it again, I will add those because I think it could use a bit more spice. The other possibility is kicking up the chili powder. I might also try the version from the Desi Cookbook. And I would love to learn how to make roti to serve alongside.

Posted by Jennifer at January 30, 2006 9:43 AM | TrackBack

Let me say again how much I love your website. I have tried a few of the dishes and loved nearly all of them.

I made the Butter chicken recipe tonight and it was great! Added some salt and pepper at the end. It was really yummy. Chicken was tender and had the right amount of spices. I do feel that it would have tasted even better if it had more of a kick. I think I will add some red pepper flakes next time.

Also, I think the dish will taste even better the next day when all the flavors have melded together.

Pls. continue posting wonderful recipes. Thanks for sharing!

Posted by: Jennifer K. at February 2, 2006 11:01 PM

This was quite tasty, though I agree that using the chiles or some other source of heat would make it even better. As I tried to explain while we were eating it, there was a space in the flavor where it felt like the heat should be. Overall, though, I still quite liked it.

Posted by: Michael at February 4, 2006 4:26 PM

Love the look of this recipe - will give it a go!

Re chicken thighsL personally I prefer them to breasts - they have more flavor (particularly if cooked on the bone) and are cheaper. But then I've always been a leg man. ;)

Posted by: richard at February 7, 2006 11:45 AM

I made this again last night. It came out great. I added a touch of cayenne pepper for some "kick" and I liked it. Ground the almonds more fine this time and actually I liked last time's taste more (the almonds were a bit more coarse). Definite keeper.

Posted by: Jennifer K. at February 13, 2006 1:55 PM

Oh, fantastic! I've tried to make Chicken Tikka Masala a couple of times at home, and have had dicey luck. (Not great to not good.) I think it's because I can't find an Indian cookbook that will talk American to me, and I'm not smart enough to translate. This looks doable, and you've vouched that it's tasty, so I'm going to try it. Thanks!

Posted by: Mer Haskell at February 15, 2006 9:09 AM

We at Naughty Curry are on this!

Posted by: Courtney, Trina and Trobee at March 14, 2006 11:08 AM

I have tasted really yummy pakistani makhani that had crushed cashews in it, but that restaurant retired it's chef, so I am stuck with my own versions, which I'm seeing there are quite a few different versions of this recipe, I have seen some that asked for grounded cashews which give it a nice taste, and others who do not ask for it. Which one could be the authentic one? Hmmmm...fun to try them all though! Thank you for your recipe, I mixed yours with two others, and came out with something that the kids actually liked. :)

Posted by: cherryblossoms at April 25, 2006 9:24 PM

I forgot to add this, the base of the pakistani recipe was coconut milk. I've only been able to find one recipe like that online, but it's without the tomatoes and nuts. May be a thai version?

Posted by: cherryblossoms at April 25, 2006 9:42 PM

I like to add cardamom and cumin.

Brown Sugar gives it extra sweetness, really good if you also like to add extra spice, like chili pepper, to give it a kick.

Finally, for the best Butter Chicken ever, try replacing the yogurt with unwhipped cream. You'll never go back (as long as you don't mind the extra calories!)

Posted by: Scott at August 22, 2008 1:30 PM
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