I’m pretty convinced my father-in-law only thinks I cook like, I don’t know, hamburgers and turkduckens and other outrageously stereotypical American dishes. Pretty sure.
I’ve been inviting him to dinner for years, but he always turned us down, perhaps envisioning a spread of buffalo wings and Taco Bell copycat recipes and cronuts? (Whatever.. cronuts are delicious.. [especially my vegan cronuts!]) And then Leo was born. And I tell you, this man is head over heels for this little baby, and it’s the greatest thing ever. So for his birthday, I invited him over for dinner–“Indian food, I promise!!” was interjected early and often–and he agreed. Pretty sure it was just to see Leo, but I’m not complaining.
And I knew I had to make this butter chicken recipe, because it’s so perfect and flavorful without leaving that spicy fiery pit in your stomach for hours. like Indian food can do to you. I’ve been making it for years, got the basic recipe out of an old “Asian food” cookbook with oddly styled food shot with a narrower aperture which shows me immediately that it’s not exactly new. I don’t think I’ve ever made anything else from the book, but I don’t need to–I got my $6.99 worth from the discount section with this one butter chicken recipe, dagnabit!
Despite tasting totally indulgent, it’s actually not too unhealthy–considering it’s actual, real food and all. And did I tell you? O and I started 2016 with a diet–cliché non?–cutting out sugar, eating only real food, and umm… not not exercising. But not really exercising like.. a lot. On my end, at least! O for some reason derives pleasure out of running, and I look at him strangely any time he repeats this sentiment.
So back to the butter chicken–it’s real food, it’s real food–and it’s really that perfect “Indian food”. It’s not like in-your-face saag paneer or in-your-face chicken tikka; it’s a bit more vague than that. It’s creamy and tomatoey with warm garam masala grounding everything, plenty saucy to drape over fluffy basmati rice, and chicken so tender you’ll cry. Cry! It’s quite easy, too–as easy as Indian recipes go–and can be made easily for a weeknight dinner. I served it with homemade naan, which is coming soon to a 40 Aprons near you and was also outrageously good and made me a bit impressed with myself, not gonna lie.
Oh, and you see why his dad is obsessed with Leo? Because uh, wouldn’t you be?
- 2 tablespoons peanut oil , coconut oil, or ghee
- 2 pounds chicken thigh filets , excess fat trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1/4 cup butter or ghee
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger (told you)
- 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 6 cardamom pods , bruised with the flat side of a knife
- 15- ounce can tomato sauce
- 1 1/2 tablespoon sugar or honey/maple syrup/coconut sugar
- 1/3 cup full-fat plain yogurt
- 3/4 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- salt , to taste
- chopped cilantro , for garnish
- steamed basmati rice , to serve
- fresh naan , to serve
Heat a wok or large skillet until very hot. Add 1 tablespoon oil and swirl to coat. Add half the chicken and stir fry for 4 minutes, or until browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add remaining tablespoon oil, and stir fry the remaining half of chicken until browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Pour out oil.
Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add butter to skillet and melt. Add garam masala, sweet paprika, coriander, ginger, chili powder, cinnamon stick, and cardamom pods and stir fry for 1 minute or until fragrant. Return the chicken to the skillet and mix to coat in the spices.
Add the tomato sauce and sugar/sweetener and simmer, stirring, for 15 minutes, or until the chicken is tender and the sauce has thickened.
Add the yogurt, cream, and lemon juice and simmer for 5 minutes or until the sauce has thickened slightly. Add salt to taste. Serve over rice with fresh naan and sprinkle with chopped fresh cilantro.