Friday, October 8, 2010

Butter Chicken

 I hate my food processor. Not because it's a hand-me-down and I only have the chopping blade; it's the most useful, anyway. Or because it's a hassle to get it down from the top if the fridge every time I need to use it. Or that, due to the way outlets in our kitchen are set up, I have to delicately balance it on the edge of a shelf, holding onto the sides while it processes away. Or that it's 110 volts and I lost my converter in our last move (and obviously have yet to replace it), so I fear the Foop is going to explode in my hands, blowing chickpeas, parsley and fingers all over the kitchen. No, I can't hate it for those reasons because it does such a beautiful job of chopping and mixing things; plus, it's so persuasive. I look at a recipe that calls for finely mincing onions, garlic and almonds into a fine paste and the Foop calls to me from its perch: "I would make that job so much easier. Come on. Come on." And the Foop doesn't lie.

No, I hate my Foop because after the euphoria of finely ground onions and almonds has passed, I am reminded what bugs me so much: the fact the stupid contraption takes up all space in my teeny sink, forcing me to wash it before I can add more dirty dishes. The Foop mocks me.

Luckily, the mixture was for butter chicken, a dish with surprisingly subtle flavors that is nonetheless awesome, so the Foop escaped my wrath for another day. Lucky bastard. Back to the food: I have been eyeing this recipe ever since my sister gave me to book over a year ago and I haven't made it until now because . . . I don't know. Maybe I was too lazy to buy sliced almonds? But the last time we were at Dawat, our favorite Indian restaurant here, our friend ordered butter chicken and I decided I could do even better in my kitchen. Of course.

The recipe is pretty easy: a long marinade, quick browning in a frying pan, then - this is the best part - you bake it for an hour. Yes, an Indian dish that is baked! You'll be so shocked by the freedom this affords you that you may wander aimlessly around the kitchen, confused, wondering where the stuff is you need to stir. There also aren't any "exotic" ingredients, though cardamom pods may be an investment. They last a long time, though, because a dish rarely calls for more than a few at a time, so your money will go a long way.

Just to make myself clear: all three of us in the house were blown away by how good this was. Hot damn.

Butter Chicken
The Food of India

 2cm (3/4inch) piece of ginger, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/2cup blanched almonds
2/3cup thick plain yogurt (you can also drain regular yogurt using a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth to remove the whey)
1/2tsp chili powder
1/4tsp ground cloves
1/4tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp garam masala
4 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
14oz can chopped tomatoes
1 1/4tsp salt
1kg skinless, boneless chicken thigh fillets, cut into large pieces (I used skinless thighs with the bone and kept them whole; they were small)
5tbsp ghee or clarified butter
1 large onion, thinly sliced
6tbsp finely chopped cilantro
1/4cup thick cream (the book recommends double/heavy, but I used single and it was fine)

1. Blend the ginger and garlic together to a paste in a food processor or pestle and mortar. Grind the almonds in a food processor or finely chop with a knife. (I chopped the onions and garlic in the Foop, then added the almonds and pulsed it a few times.)

2. Put this mixture in a bowl and add the yogurt, chili powder, cloves, cinnamon, garam masala, cardamom pods, tomatoes and salt. Blend together with a fork. Add chicken pieces and stir to coat thoroughly. Marinate for 2 hours or overnight.

3. Preheat oven to 350F. Heat the ghee in a deep frying pan, add onion and fry until softened and brown. Add chicken mixture and fry for 2 minutes. Mix in the fresh coriander. Put the mixture into a shallow baking dish, pour in the cream and stir with a fork.

4. Bake for 1 hour. If the top is browning too quickly during cooking, cover with a piece of foil. Leave to rest for 10 minutes before serving. The oil will rise to the surface. Just before serving, place dish under the broiler for about 2 minutes to brown the top.

5. If necessary, slightly tip the dish and spoon off any extra oil.

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