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But What About the Butter? April 21, 2009

Posted by Toy Lady in Cooking, Food.

OK, I’m going to start with the usual disclaimer.  I’m not Indian – I’m a midwestern Swede.  I tried a recipe for Chicken Makhani which came from a Chicago girl living in Paris.  I’m just sayin’ that’s all.

I like Indian food just fine – it’s not something I grew up with, and I find the heavily spicy flavors exotic and intriguing.  That said, for me, a little goes a long way.  We’ve come up with a reasonable facsimile for tandoori chicken that we can make at home, and other than that, I tend to visit Indian restaurants when there’s a buffet – I have a taste of this and a bite of that, and by the end of the meal, I have no idea what I’ve eaten or which dishes I enjoyed most.  🙄

Except the breads and the rice pudding.  Both of those are always fabulous, aren’t they?   But still – it makes it kind of tough to order something from a menu if I have no idea what I like!  😯

Yeah, can I get the, um, well, it’s got some kind of sauce.  And there’s meat.  Definitely meat.  I think.  I’m not sure what kind, though.  Probably not lamb, though it could be. Chicken?  Yeah, I’ll have something with chicken.  And, uh, sauce.  Do you have something like that?  😳

You just can’t take me anywhere, can you?  😉

Anywho. . . it was Easter Sunday, and we were at my parents’ house babysitting the Easter Ham while they were enjoying their Easter service.  Surly Boy came by while we were going over our meal plan for the week, trying to figure out what to do with chicken.  He mentioned that his “friend” loved Chicken Makhani, so we went ahead and Googled it.

“Indian Butter Chicken.”  OK.  I’m willing to give that a try.  Dude.  Butter chicken.  How bad can it be, right?  😆

Well, it turns out, though, that the “butter” in butter chicken apparently isn’t actually referring to actual butter.  (Which is probably just as well, but I did feel a little cheated when I found that out.)  It’s evidently a reference to the creamy tomato-cream sauce  – cream eventually becomes butter, I guess.  Must be a translation thing. . . 🙄

So we decided to run with this.  While I essentially used the recipe from Too Many  Chefs,  I found the directions a little confusing at times, so I’ve, I don’t know, taken the liberty and cleaned it up a little.  And streamlined it.  Put it on one page rather than the 8 pages that printed for me.  😀

PhotobucketIf you’ve read any of my food posts, you already know that I’m a firm believer in mise en place.  And when there are like 14 steps and 18 ingredients, even more so.

Since the full recipe is right here, I’m just going to hit the highlights.

PhotobucketThe first thing we do is lightly saute several shallots in butter. I used ghee because, well, because I can.  😉

We probably could have also used an onion, thinly sliced, and probably would next time if we don’t happen to have a bunch of shallots just lying around the kitchen.

We pulled the shallots (or onions) out of the pan (that spider was just too big for this purpose, though – either use a smaller one or a slotted spoon!), leaving the fat, then browned the chicken.


I used chunks of chicken breast – about 3/4 pound.  Thigh meat would work just as well, I’m sure.

We don’t necessarily need to cook the meat completely at this point – just enough to get a nice sear going.

PhotobucketThen we add a bunch of spices.  😀

Seriously – there’s chili powder, cumin, paprika, and garam masala.  Plus a bay leaf.  Evidently, even Indian cuisine requires the fishing out of the bay leaf.  😯

Along with the dry spices, we added several well-chopped cloves of garlic (yay garlic!) and what was about a Tablespoon of grated ginger.  (I buy a bunch of ginger, peel it all, throw it in the Cuisinart, and freeze it in ice cube trays – that way I don’t end up with mushy, moldy ginger right when I need it most!)

PhotobucketThe spices-and-aromatics are added to the chicken-and-butter in the pan and stirred just until they’re wonderfully fragrant.

You’ll know when it happens, believe me!  😉

If you find the spices sticking – if, say, you used a little lighter hand than I did with the butter, you may need to deglaze the pan with a little liquid – water or chicken broth would probably be the way I’d go.  Or even a little more clarified butter.  😳

PhotobucketSo.  Remember the shallots we removed a while back?  Time to put them back in the pan, along with a cup (or an 8-ounce can) of tomato sauce.  Reduce the heat to really, really low, and let simmer about 15 minutes.  (Your rice  can be cooking now.  You need to have basmati rice with this.)

Once the sauce is nicely thickened (and your rice is just about done), check for seasoning.  You may need to add some salt (we didn’t add any, what with all the spices and stuff), plus a quick squeeze of lemon juice.

Now, here comes the tricky part.  At some point, combine 2/3 cup of cream (I used half-and-half) with 1/4 cup of plain yogurt (I used nonfat).  Now take a couple of spoonfuls of the cooked sauce from the pan, and gently temper the cream.

PhotobucketStir the tempered cream-yogurt mixture back into the sauce.  Doesn’t that look just . . . delightful?  😯

PhotobucketAlong with the cream mixture, you may also want to add some raisins (I really like the sweetness they bring, even though I’m not a big fan of raisins, normally) and slivered almonds.

And that’s about it.  Just let it heat – gently! – until the sauce is hot, and we’re ready to serve.

Spoon over hot basmati rice, sprinkle with more almonds if you’d like, and some chopped cilantro (if you remember to pick it up at the supermarket – d’oh!).  And if you have a cool place like Beers of the World nearby, a couple of bottles of  IPA are the perfect accompaniment.  😀


Funny, isn’t it, how I forgot to get cilantro, but managed to remember to make a special stop for special beer?  😯



1. ihmmb - April 22, 2009

That looks delicious! I usually cheat when I make Indian food and start with a jar of Pataks!

Toy Lady - April 22, 2009

Well, yeah, I’m sure that works just as well, and it’s no doubt easier. But you know me – I always have to do it the hard way! It’s just more fun that way, I guess. Or something. 🙄

2. No Pits Here « Dark Side of the Fridge - April 23, 2009

[…] how I stopped at Beers of the World the other day to get the IPA for the Chicken Makhani?  Well, that’s not all I picked […]

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