Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Butter Chicken, no torch required!

The two photos accompanying this post makes one thing perfectly clear. That would be that I need to hire a food stylist to take a blow torch to the tops of my chicken thighs to give them that slightly darkened, enticingly crispy exterior. Trust me, the photo that accompanied the recipe for Butter Chicken in the NY Times by Sam Sifton did not go untouched by anyone other than the chef. How do I know this? Not that I'm a food physicist but I think I can state confidently that any dish that is cooked entirely covered in liquid on the stovetop would have a pretty hard time getting its maillard reaction on. Although that torch did a nice job of getting rid of some of that pimply chicken skin. I'll leave it to you discerning readers to guess which pic is mine.

Be that as it may, and the fact that I have yet to indulge my want of aforementioned kitchen torch, this was still a helluva satisfying Indian dish. The word that comes to my mind in describing it is "sumptuous". Of course it's pretty easy to achieve sumptuosity when the dish in question has a stick of butter, a cup and a half of full fat yogurt, and 12 ounces of heavy cream in it. If you think I minded this heart stopping richness then you obviously don't know the disregard I have for my cardiac health. Believe me this was worth a couple of upticks on the scale the next morning. Like so much Indian food that seems complicated this came together in a snap. The list of ingredients looks long but after indulging my lust for sub-constinental cuisine the last few years I had most of it in my pantry. Even if you don't have the ingredients close at hand any item needed is easily available at your local well-stocked supermarket.

Now that I've taken away any objections, just do yourselves a favor and make this okay? Torched or not, it is so very delicious. Having said that I think both W and I both felt that for complexity of flavor and equal ease of cooking we both preferred the recipe for Vij's Family Chicken I posted a few years back (hell, everything I've posted is a few years back at this point). Whichever way you go (and you should go both ways!) it's a definite win-win decision!
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Butter Chicken
from The NY Times/Sam Sifton

1 ½ cups full-fat Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 ½ tablespoons ground turmeric
2 tablespoons garam masala
2 tablespoons ground cumin
3 pounds chicken thighs, on the bone
¼ pound unsalted butter
4 teaspoons neutral oil, like vegetable or canola oil
2 medium-size yellow onions, peeled and diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
3 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and grated or finely diced
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 cinnamon stick
2 medium-size tomatoes, diced
2 red chiles, like Anaheim, or 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
Kosher salt to taste
⅔ cup chicken stock, low-sodium or homemade
1 ½ cups cream
1 ½ teaspoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons ground almonds, or finely chopped almonds
½ bunch cilantro leaves, stems removed.

Whisk together the yogurt, lemon juice, turmeric, garam masala and cumin in a large bowl. Put the chicken in, and coat with the marinade. Cover, and refrigerate (for up to a day).

In a large pan over medium heat, melt the butter in the oil until it starts to foam. Add the onions, and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent. Add the garlic, ginger and cumin seeds, and cook until the onions start to brown.

Add the cinnamon stick, tomatoes, chiles and salt, and cook until the chiles are soft, about 10 minutes.

Add the chicken and marinade to the pan, and cook for 5 minutes, then add the chicken stock. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for approximately 30 minutes.

Stir in the cream and tomato paste, and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, approximately 10 to 15 minutes.

Add the almonds, cook for an additional 5 minutes and remove from the heat. Garnish with the cilantro leaves. Serve with Basmati rice or naan bread. Chutney too, if desired.