The Crown Jewel of Chai Pani, Meherwan's Famous Butter Chicken

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*photos by Jack Sorokin

Our restaurant style butter chicken is sure to be the crown jewel of any dinner party. This rich, aromatic, sweet, and deeply satisfying Indian curry-house classic is not complicated but it does require patience. Do not rush this recipe! Take your time cooking down the onions and let the tomatoes simmer for at least a half hour - its well worth the wait!

Click here to watch Meherwan cook this meal on IGTV

MEHERWAN'S BUTTER CHICKEN

Serves 4-5
t = teaspoon, T = tablespoon
You will need a few things from your local Indian grocery:
Ginger-garlic paste (GGP) - comes in jars, we prefer Laxmi brand (Can’t find it? Substitute the GGP in the sauce with 1 tablespoon of chopped ginger and 3 cloves chopped garlic and skip the GGP in the chicken marinade)
Kasuri methi - dried fenugreek leaves, a savory aromatic sweet herb, reminiscent of maple syrup (butter chicken will still taste good without it, but it does help give the dish its signature taste)
Jaggery - an unrefined sugar made from sugar-cane juice, this gives the butter chicken a complex, earthy sweetness. (Can’t find it? Substitute the jaggery in the sauce with 2 teaspoons of brown sugar).
Spices - the remaining spices can be found at most grocery stores, but we recommend using Spicewalla brand spices or purchasing them from a local Indian grocery as they are generally much fresher, higher quality, and more aromatic.

FOR THE CHICKEN MARINADE:

2 whole boneless chicken breasts, about 1.5 lb.
½ t ginger-garlic paste
½ t Spicewalla turmeric powder
½ t chili powder
½ t coarse kosher salt
1 t oil

Wash chicken well and pat dry with a paper towel.
Remove any excess fat and cut chicken into ½ inch strips.
Combine chicken in a mixing bowl with the ginger-garlic paste, turmeric powder, chili powder, and oil. Mix together well to marinate chicken.
Store in refrigerator until use.

FOR THE SAUCE: 

¼ C oil (any mild oil - canola, sunflower, safflower)
½ t Spicewalla cumin seeds
1 jumbo yellow onion or 2 medium yellow onions, finely diced
1 green chili (serrano or thai chili), finely chopped
1 small green bell pepper, deseeded and finely diced
2 ½ t ginger-garlic paste
¾ t turmeric
½ t Spicewalla kashmiri chili powder for mild, 1 ¼ t for spicy
1 T Spicewalla coriander powder
1 ½ t Spicewalla cumin powder
1 ¼ C canned crushed tomato (not diced tomatoes or tomato puree)
2 cups hot water
1 t kosher salt
3 T jaggery, shaved or crumbled
½ t Spicewalla garam masala
¾ t Spicewalla kasuri methi
1 C heavy cream
6 T unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

PREPARATION:

1. Heat a large, heavy bottomed pot on high heat. Add the oil.
2. When oil is very hot, almost smoking, add the cumin seeds. Let them sputter until they darken a bit in color. Drop one seed in to check the temperature of the oil. If it doesn’t wiggle and start darkening in color, the oil isn’t hot enough.
3. Add the diced onion and chopped green chili. Add a pinch of salt, this will help to pull the water out of the onion so they cook and brown faster.
4. Cook the onion and green chili on medium-high heat for 10 minutes, stirring very often to prevent them from sticking.
5. Add the chopped bell pepper and continue cooking on medium-high heat until the onions are completely brown. This is the most important step in building deep flavor, do not rush it. The onions are cooked when they are about 1/5th of the original volume and are golden brown. Not sure? Keep going!
6. Add the ginger-garlic paste, mix in well, and cook for a minute.
7. Add the turmeric powder, mix.
8. Turn the heat to medium and add the kashmiri chili powder, coriander, and cumin. Mix in well.
9. Add the crushed tomato, hot water and salt. Mix in well.
10. Cover and cook on medium heat, stirring every 4-5 minutes, for 30 minutes. Be careful, the crushed tomato has a tendency to blast out of the pot like molten lava as it cooks and thickens. Keep the lid on and lower the heat while you mix it to avoid burning yourself.
11. Remove the pot from the heat and, with an immersion blender, carefully blend the sauce until completely smooth. No immersion blender? Let the sauce cool a bit, puree it in a standard blender, and pour it back into the pot.
12. Add the jaggery, garam masala, kasturi methi, heavy cream, and butter.
13. Put the pot back on medium heat, cover, and let it simmer.

While your sauce finishes on a simmer, cook the chicken:
1. Heat a large non-stick skillet on high heat.
2. Add a little oil and, once hot, carefully add just enough chicken to fill the pan without piling any of the chicken on top of itself.
3. Let the chicken sear for 2-3 minutes, then mix the chicken and continue to saute for another 2 minutes or until cooked.
4. Add the chicken into the simmering sauce and repeat until all chicken is cooked.
5. Taste for salt and sweetness.

Garnish with a few picked cilantro leaves or lightly-toasted cashew halves and serve piping hot with basmati rice or naan.

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