Thursday, 20 August 2015 11:20

Butter Chicken isn’t as hard to make as one might think

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Dear Darcie,
I enjoy casual dining out from time to time, and when I try something I really like, I make a bold attempt to replicate that dish at home. One of these dishes is butter chicken curry.

I usually rely on the convenient options at the supermarket, using pre-made powders or pastes, mixed with some extra ingredients, and the odd tip from other amateurs on the internet.
As good as those are, they just don’t measure up to that rich and creamy, but still silky texture and authentic warm colour, that is served by the pros, versus the congealed and sometime lackluster sauce I end up with.
What is their secret?
— Butter Chicken Boy
Dear Butter Chicken Boy,
You can’t see me right now, but I’m cheering on your bold attempts. No, not with pompoms and high kicks, but nearly. Very nearly.
The reason your butter chicken sauce ends up the consistency of curdled sour cream, with a flavour that makes your taste buds yawn and reach for the remote, is manifold.
In short, you do not (I assume) have a tandoor oven, nor an open air spice market out your back door, and haven’t spent half a lifetime cooking with A) an Indian home cook, or B) a chef from the sub continent.
But don’t worry. I’m faking it to the best of my ability, too.
Now, because the subtle complexities of Indian food have been likened to mastering fine French cuisine, for your sake, and mine, we’re going to strike up a compromise in step one of two.
Step One: Make Tandoor-less Tandoori Chicken.
Step Two: Turn Tandoori Chicken into Butter Chicken.
There. Easy peasy.
Butter Chicken Curry for the Tandoor-less cook
• About 12 large chicken breasts, thighs and drumsticks (skinless and boneless or otherwise)
• 6 tbs Pataks brand Tandoori Paste
• 1/2 cup coconut milk
• fresh cracked black pepper (several turns of the pepper mill)
Whisk together tandoori paste, coconut milk and pepper. Place chicken in a glass baking dish, poke several times with a fork and coat thoroughly with marinade. Refrigerate for at least six hours or overnight.
• 1/4 cup clarified butter (ghee) or canola oil
• 2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
• 4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
• 3 tbs fresh gingerroot, grated
• 2 tsp chilli powder
• 1 tsp ground turmeric
• 1 tsp ground coriander
• 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
• 3/4 tsp ground cumin
• 1 can (798ml) diced tomatoes, drained
• 2 cups homemade chicken stock
• 1 tbs brown sugar
• kosher salt/freshly ground black pepper to taste
• 1 cup sour cream (not light or fat-free)
• 1 tbs finely chopped fresh cilantro
• 2 tbs almond butter (available in Superstore)
Heat oven to 425F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Place marinated chicken parts in a single layer and bake until cooked through (do not over bake).
For the butter chicken sauce, while the chicken is cooking, add ghee or oil into a large pot over medium heat. Add onions and garlic. Cook about five minutes, stirring frequently, until onions are tender. Add ginger, chilli powder, turmeric, coriander, cinnamon and cumin. Stir to coat onions with spices. Cook for one more minute, until spices are fragrant. Add drained tomatoes, stock, brown sugar and salt and pepper.
Bring to a simmer then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
Transfer two-thirds of the sauce to a blender and purée until smooth. Return purée to the pot with the remaining sauce and mix well. Return to heat. Stir in sour cream, cilantro and almond butter. Add chicken, stir to coat well. Continue cooking just until chicken is hot. Serve over hot cooked basmati rice.

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