Dish of the Week: Butter Chicken

From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. Find other dishes of the week here.

This week, we’re taking a look at butter chicken.

Contrary to what it sounds like, butter chicken is not simply chicken smothered in butter (though that also sounds delicious). Instead, butter chicken — also known as murgh makhani — is an Indian dish made with chicken tossed in a bold, creamy curry sauce. It is a favorite dish of Delhi, where rich foods were influenced by the Mughals, a group of Muslim emperors who ruled India in the early 1600s.

Made with roasted or tandoori chicken and a ton of spices, heavy cream and butter, the popular dish may just be one of the richest Punjabi dishes around. It is said to have been invented at a famous Old Delhi restaurant called the Moti Mahal in the 1950s, when cooks created a sauce with butter, spices, cream and tomato as a way to recycle leftover chicken juice and bring dry tandoor-cooked chicken back to life. When they tossed the creamy gravy with chicken pieces, a star was born.  

The dish is traditionally served with warm roti or naan and/or rice, but you can get imaginative and throw it on anything from pizza to french fries for a fusion take on poutine that will knock your socks off.

This recipe, slightly changed from Simply Scratch, simplifies the curry sauce (i.e. doesn’t include 10+ spices that you only need a pinch of) by combining a blend of garam masala, turmeric, cumin, coriander and cayenne.

Easy Butter Chicken

Ingredients serves 4 to 6
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
6 ounces full fat Greek yogurt
Juice from 1/2 a lemon (about a tablespoon)
1 tablespoon of grated fresh ginger
4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
2 tablespoon butter 
2 heaping teaspoons garam masala
1 heaping teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
a few shakes of cayenne pepper
1-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (more or less to taste)
1-1/4 cups (or 1 15-ounce can) tomato puree (not tomato sauce)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 cup heavy cream
White or brown basmati rice
Torn fresh cilantro leaves
Flat bread or naan, warmed

Day before: Place chicken thigh pieces into a large bowl and toss with yogurt, lemon juice, ginger and garlic. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours. 

Day of: Heat a large ten- or 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Drizzle in a teaspoon of butter or oil and add chicken and marinade. Cook for ten to 15 minutes or until no longer pink.

Next, stir in the garam masala, turmeric, cumin, coriander, cayenne and the salt. Pour in the tomato puree and add the sugar. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in heavy cream and heat through.

Serve butter chicken over cooked basmati rice with warmed naan and a sprinkle of torn cilantro leaves.
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Brooke Viggiano is a contributing writer who is always looking to share Houston's coolest and tastiest happenings with the Houston Press readers.
Contact: Brooke Viggiano