Murgh Makhani (Butter Chicken)

Being locked up with little to do but cook and eat, I seem to be turning a blind eye to calories. Back in the day, when you could go to an Indian restaurant…any restaurant…I’d typically get Tandoori Grilled Salmon or Chicken Malai Kabab, nothing laden in heavy sauces. Watching calories, you know! But now I’m craving rich food and not afraid to consume it. These are unprecedented times and in my mind Covid calories don’t count. So bring on chicken thighs, swimming in a rich sauce of butter, cream and Indian spices. It’s totally worth a little weight gain!

This is a two part recipe. First the marinade, which can be made a day ahead, then the tomato-butter-cream sauce in which the chicken thighs do their final cooking.

Murgh Makhani (Butter Chicken)

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1 cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger (or finely grated)
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon of salt
1.5 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into 1″pieces

Chop the chicken thighs into 1″ pieces. Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl, cover and marinate for a minimum of two hours or overnight.

3/4 cup butter total, cut into cubes (1/4 cup of this will be for sautéing the chicken thighs. The rest for the sauce)
2 cups tomato purée
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves (optional)
2 cups heavy cream
Salt to Taste

The butter used in Indian recipes is typically clarified butter. But for matters of ease, we are using straight up butter which works fine.

In your largest sauté pan add 1/4 cup butter and heat to medium-high. Once the butter starts to sizzle (before it burns) add the chicken thighs in batches, ensuring not to crowd the pan. Sear on all sides, creating a deep brown crust. Remove with tongs or a slotted spoon and set aside. The chicken will not be cooked through just yet. It will finish cooking in the sauce. There should be a fair amount of marinade sauce and butter left in the pan.

Returning to your sauce pan, add 1/4 cup of butter and stir until melted. Add the tomato puree and all the spices, except the cream. Blend in well, deglazing the chicken bits and marinade left cooking in the pan. This will all blend in well together for great flavor.

Continue to cook on low for 20 minutes, until tomatoes reduce, thicken, and butter begins to separate. Stir frequently. The tomato sauce will turn a darker, caramelized color. (see below)

Add the remaining 1/4 cup butter to the tomato purée. Stir on low until melted.

Add the cream (reserving a few tablespoons for serving), and salt to taste. Return the chicken thighs to the pan, bringing the mixture to a simmer. Cook for about 8 minutes until chicken is cooked through.

To serve, drizzle with remaining tablespoon of cream. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with fresh naan and hot basmati rice. (my skipper has been perfecting fresh naan these isolated weeks. I’m good with that!)

Reserve any left overs in the ice box as this keeps for a few days and gets better with time. Just reheat on your stove top of microwave.

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