Thursday’s Dish: Butter Chicken

Tasneem Abbas, a stay-at-home mother of two and self-proclaimed Zumba addict, shared her recipe for an Indian dish, Butter Chicken, with LiveMom contributor Lori, who made it for several of us. We were knocked out by it and decided we had to share it with readers. Like many Indian dishes, it’s a complex blend of flavors, but the steps are easy enough to follow once you have the correct ingredients in the pantry.

To get those ingredients, we headed to Teji’s Foods in Round Rock. Part Indian grocery, part restaurant, Teji’s is a warm, welcoming place with fantastic food. We tried their version of Butter Chicken (good!) and some Lamb Korma (I’ll be back for that), plus we had Samosas, Cucumber Raita and Garlic Naan, all of which were delicious. After stuffing ourselves (with enough leftovers to take home), we gathered our groceries with the help of Teji’s friendly staff. Here’s a snapshot of LiveMom’s Shannon trying out the Butter Chicken at Teji’s.

Back to the Butter Chicken … Tasneem says, “I grew up in Dubai, and as a family, we ate dinner out once a week as a treat. If we ended up at our favorite Indian restaurant, my brother and I would always order the Butter Chicken. Now, it’s all we order for our kids when we go to an Indian restaurant!”

She wanted to learn to make it, though, so she looked up several recipes online. “I sort of combined techniques and ingredients till I was able to duplicate what I had as a kid. I had to tweak it a bit till I got it just right.”

She continues to tweak, and says you should, too: “Indian cooking is not cut in stone. It’s important to taste-check your dish after every step. Like in this one, you want to check for salt and spice before you add the honey, and taste the sweetness before you add the cream. That being said, I know a couple of people who have tried to make this dish by substituting the butter with margarine or olive oil. It really doesn’t have the same flavor once you remove the main ingredient; it tastes like any other Indian curry at that point.”

Below the Butter Chicken recipe, I’ve added a recipe for Cucumber Raita and a method for cooking Basmati Rice, both from the book “Indian Home Cooking” by Suvir Saran and Stephanie Lyness. I recommend serving these with the Butter Chicken.

A few notes on the recipe:

  • Teji’s makes their own yogurt, but if you’re not able to get that, use a loose, plain yogurt like White Mountain, not a thick style like Greek yogurt.
  • Teji’s also makes their own ginger/garlic paste, so I used 2 tablespoons of that in the recipe rather than using garlic paste and ginger paste separately.
  • When I opened my box of Kasoori Methi, I found it was dried leaves rather than powder, so I rubbed them between my palms to powder them; easy enough for the 1/2 teaspoon called for in the recipe.
  • After adding the chicken to the simmering sauce, but before adding the cream, I had to hold the dish longer than recommended. I added a 1/2 cup of water two different times to keep the sauce from becoming paste, but the dish didn’t seem to suffer from it, so if you have to serve dinner a little late, this is a good point at which to hold it (not after you add the cream, or your sauce might break).
  • The red chili powder in the recipe is not the same as what you’d use in Texas chili, which might have other spices in it as well. Buy it at an Indian grocery.

Tasneem shared a few tips:

  • Use gloves (or thin plastic bags on your hands) when handling the marinated chicken or you’ll have red or yellow hands all day (depending on which tandoori mix you use).
  • Slightly grind your cardamom and cloves so they release flavor immediately and break down easily during cooking. Remove your cinnamon stick before serving.
  • Keep your stove setting around low to medium. Only use high if you need to bring to a boil.

Tasneem’s Butter Chicken
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 Tablespoons plain yogurt
6 teaspoons Tandoori powder
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon ginger paste (divided)
1 Tablespoon garlic paste (divided)
5 Tablespoons butter, very soft (divided)
3 green cardamom pods
5 whole cloves
A 1-inch piece of cinnamon stickAdvertisement1 green finger chili, chopped (optional/adjust accordingly)
1 can (14 ounces) tomato purée or crushed tomato
1/4 teaspoon red chili powder (optional/adjust accordingly)
1/2 teaspoon Garam Masala powder
Salt to taste
2 Tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon Kasoori Methi powder
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 drop red food coloring (optional)

Cut chicken in to 1 1/2-inch cubes. In large bowl, mix yogurt, Tandoori powder, lemon juice, 1/2 Tablespoon each of ginger and garlic paste, 2 Tablespoons of very soft butter, and a pinch of salt. Add the chicken cubes and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.

Skewer the chicken cubes and either grill them or cook them in a preheated 350-degree oven, 10-15 minutes (until juices run clear), turning skewers halfway through cooking time. Set aside.

Heat 3 Tablespoons butter in large pan over medium-low heat. Add cardamoms, cloves and cinnamon. Sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add green chili and 1/2 Tablespoon each ginger and garlic paste. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Add tomato purée, red chili powder, Garam Masala, 3/4 cup water, salt to taste, and red food coloring, if desired.

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Add honey and Kasoori Methi and stir. Add cooked Tandoori chicken. Simmer for 5 minutes, then add cream. Mix and let it simmer for another 2-3 minutes. Serve hot with rice. Makes 4-6 servings.

Plain Basmati Rice
10 cups water
2 cups Basmati rice

Bring the water to a boil over high heat in a large pot. Add the rice and stir gently so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Return to a boil, then turn the heat down so that the water simmers vigorously, and cook, partially covered, 8 minutes.

Drain the rice, return to the pan, and let stand, covered, until ready to serve. Serves 4-6.

Cucumber Raita
2 1/4 cups plain yogurt
1 large cucumber, peeled and shredded
1 fresh hot green chili, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Whisk the yogurt in a bowl until smooth and lightened. Add the shredded cucumber, green chili, cumin, and cayenne and stir. Chill well and stir in the salt just before serving. Serves 4-6.

Written by: Shannon Oelrich

2 Comments on Thursday’s Dish: Butter Chicken

  1. yum! taz has made this for me many, many times, and each time i think i have died and gone to heaven. i enjoy making it, too, but i have to admit that mine is NEVER as good as taz’s!

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