Murgh Makhani (Butter Chicken) is a well-known Indian dish originating from the Punjab region. Chicken thighs (I used boneless) are marinated in a yogurt spice mixture overnight. They are basted in ghee or butter and grilled (traditionally in a tandoor), until just cooked, then finish by simmering in a spiced tomato cream sauce. It is served with naan, roti, paratha, or rice.
To be honest, Indian food has always intimidated me. The ingredient list can become a bit long, with many unfamiliar spices. Murgh Makhani has been on my list of things to try for a while now, but I was nervous about the time required and ingredients. This is definitely not a weeknight meal. It takes a bit of time to prepare. The chicken needs to be marinated overnight, then grilled before coating in the simmering sauce. The overall cook time is about an hour, but none of the steps are difficult. I am so happy I tried it. The long cooking time brings together an amazing flavor combination.
I strained the yogurt by placing it in a coffee filter over a fine mesh strainer for an hour. I turned the ginger and garlic into a paste by grating it. I made the almond paste by blanching the almonds (cover with boiling water for about a minute until the skins easily slide off) and processing with a little water. You can also use a couple of tablespoons of almond butter. Take care not to overcook the chicken on the grill (or oven), because it will cook further in the sauce.
I used this recipe for naan to pair with the Murgh Makhani. We ran out of naan that night, so I cooked some basmati rice to use with the leftovers. Evan and I prefer the Murgh Makhani with the naan, while Chad liked it more with rice.
One of the leading spices in Murgh Makhani is fenugreek. Fenugreek originated in the Middle East and is common in cuisines from India to Ethiopia. It also has medicinal uses. This particular recipe uses the dried leaves (kasuri methi) and the seeds (methi). I was able to find them at the Asian food market. They are also available on Amazon: Peacock Kasoori Methi(dried Fenugreek Leaves) and Methi (Fenugreek) Seeds.
Murgh Makhani (Indian Butter Chicken)
Adapted from eCurry
2 pounds chicken thighs (with or without bone)
1 teaspoon red chili powder
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Ghee or butter, melted to brush on while grilling
3/4 cup plain yogurt, strained, or 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 1/2 teaspoons dried fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi)
1/2-1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 1/2 tablespoons mustard oil (or other cooking oil)
1 1/2 tablespoons ginger paste
1 1/2 tablespoons garlic paste
4 tablespoons ghee or butter
4 green cardamoms
1 black cardamom
1 1/2- 2 inch cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds (methi)
2 1/2 inch fresh ginger, turned into paste
8-10 garlic cloves, turned into paste
2-4 green chilies, cut in half
3-3 1/2 cups pureed tomatoes
1 tablespoon red chili powder (or cayenne, paprika)
salt to taste
2 1/2 cups hot water
10 blanched almonds, made into paste
1/2 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons dried fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi)
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 cup heavy cream
Place chicken in medium bowl and toss with 1 teaspoon red chili powder, lemon juice, and salt. Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
In a small bowl, whisk together strained yogurt, 1 1/2 teaspoons dried fenugreek leaves, turmeric, 1 teaspoon garam masala, mustard oil, 1 1/2 tablespoons ginger paste, and 1/2 tablespoons garlic paste. Coat the chicken with the marinade and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.
Preheat a grill or oven at 400 degrees F. Skewer the marinated chicken. Place on grill or oiled baking sheet and brush with ghee. Cook for 5 minutes, turn, brush with more ghee, and cook for another 5 minutes, or until just cooked through.
In a large pan, heat 4 tablespoons ghee over medium heat. Add the green cardamoms, black cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon. Cook until they become fragrant, about 2 minutes, and stir in the fenugreek seeds. Once they begin to sizzle, stir in the ginger paste, garlic paste, and green chilies. Cook until the water from the pastes evaporates, 5-8 minutes.
Stir in the pureed tomatoes, red chili powder, and salt to taste. Cook until the tomatoes reduce to a thick paste, 15-20 minutes.
Pour in 2 1/2 cups hot water and add the almond paste. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in the sugar and crushed fenugreek leaves.
Add the grilled chicken, stirring to coat. Cover and simmer for about 8 minutes. Remove cover, reduce heat to low, and stir in garam masala and heavy cream. Simmer for 5 minutes before removing from heat. Serve immediately garnished with cilantro and splashes of heavy cream.