Sunday, September 23, 2012

Chicken Makhani (& How to Make Ghee)

Chicken makhani, aka murgh makhani, aka butter chicken, just might be my favorite food ever.  It's also surprisingly (and dangerously) easy to make at home.  Since discovering this, I've been consuming a lot more butter a lot more frequently than I should.  Be warned: with the power to create this delicious Indian dish comes the responsibility to not eat it every week, for your heart's sake!

That being said, I did cut almost half the butter from the recipes I based my version on.  You're welcome!

4 -5 chicken breasts, skinned, cleaned and cubed
2 tsp chili powder (as in red chili pepper powder, not chili seasoning!)
3 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp butter

Mix together pre-marinade and add to chicken, stirring well to coat.  Leave for 30 minutes.  I know marinating twice seems like a pain but I think it makes a big difference in the tenderness and flavor of the chicken!



6 tbsp plain yogurt (I use Greek yogurt)
3 tbsp crushed ginger or ginger paste (I use my ginger cubes of course!)
3 tbsp crushed garlic or garlic paste
3 tsp red chili powder (if you don't like it too spicy, you can cut down or omit the chili powder here, I usually omit it!)
3 tsp lemon juice
4 tsp garam masala
3 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mix well and add to chicken.  As with the pre-marinade, make sure you have enough to very thoroughly coat the chicken, and if you need to, make more.  The one time my marinade was stretched a bit thin and I didn't feel like whipping up more of it, my chicken came out much less tender than usual.

Refrigerate for minimum 3-4 hours or up to 2 days.

When you're ready to bake the chicken, preheat the oven to 425.  Line a baking sheet (or two if needed) with aluminum foil and lightly spray with olive oil.  Spread chicken pieces out over the sheet(s) and bake for 10-15 minutes or until thoroughly cooked through, turning every 5 minutes with tongs.  You can also bake the pieces on metal skewers (or wood skewers thoroughly soaked in water.)

I tend to find that towards the end of baking, the chicken will be sitting in a lot of cooked-off liquid, so a couple minutes before it's done, I pull the tray out and carefully drain as much of it as I can, then turn the pieces again and pop them back in so they get just the tiniest bit toasty on the outside.  You can also pop them in a broiler for the last few minutes.

After removing the chicken, I slice into a few pieces to make sure they're all thoroughly cooked in the center, then set aside.

Ghee and Makhani sauce:

Ghee (clarified butter) prepared from 3 sticks unsalted butter
2 tsp garam masala
2 tsp crushed ginger or ginger paste
2 tsp crushed garlic or garlic paste
1-3/4 cup tomato puree
dry fenugreek (aka methi) leaves
heavy cream
¼ tsp. salt (taste before you add, I often find it doesn't need it)
optional: if you like your curry on the sweet side you can also add a teaspoon or 2 of sugar.

I was always intimidated by making ghee, but it's really easy!  If you have cheesecloth and a tea strainer you have everything you need.  You can use regular butter in this recipe too, but ghee is preferable because it has a much higher smoke point, so you can get your butter crackling without burning it.

Take note: in these pics I'm making a smaller recipe of the ghee and sauce since Jay ate half the chicken after baking.
this is a glass of butter. take a moment to process your feelings.

To make the ghee: Melt butter in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes, until there is a consolidated foam on top.  Place a tea strainer over a glass and line with at least three layers of cheesecloth.  Pour the liquid butter through, separating out the solids.  You can save these and spread them on toast or a whole other host of things.  Ta-da, ghee!

To make the sauce: Heat butter in medium sauce pan. Add garam masala, wait till butter crackles. Add ginger and garlic and cook for 2 minutes.  Add tomato puree, salt (if desired) and 1 cup water. Tip: To prevent sauce from separating (like it does in these pics!) add the tomato puree a tiny bit at a time, whisking continuously as you pour it in.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add a generous pinch of fenugreek leaves.

Add chicken and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and add cream (a generous drizzle.)

Serve with long-grain rice (I prefer jasmine or Basmati) and/or naan if you're lucky enough to have it!  My favorite way to eat it is with a generous squeeze of lemon juice.


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