I picked up a wonderful book last month with my Village Books birthday discount, called Fat. It does my heart good (while, no doubt, clogging my arteries) to look at all the beautiful pictures of pork fat and cracklings. And shortbread. And bacon sandwiches. Mmmm.
I was feeling oddly guilty about having not made anything from the book yet, and decided that I would pick one thing to try, just to start out: butter chicken.
Given how much Indian food we cook at home, it seemed a little odd to make a recipe like this from a non-Indian cookbook, but it turned out to be a slightly gussied-up version of a recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s first cookbook. It was easy to make, and the result was a delicately flavored, aromatic curry with a silken, buttery edge to it. The first night we ate just the curry with steamed jasmine rice, but when we finished the leftovers we cooked some okra to go with it. A fruity red wine suited it very well.
adapted from Fat by Jennifer McLagan and An Invitation to Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey
1 package boneless skinless chicken thighs (about 1.5 pounds) [note: Jennifer strongly urges you to use bone-in; I just like the ease of boneless for packing up as lunches afterwards]
a chunk of ginger, peeled and chopped
1 bay leaf
1 serrano chile
1 small dried red chile
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 cinnamon stick
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
4 Tbsp butter
handful of chopped fresh cilantro
Heat a large skillet and swirl some oil or ghee into it. Add the chicken (it should fit in one layer – if not, do multiple batches) and sear it until it’s golden on all sides. Set the browned chicken aside on a platter.
Combine the onion, ginger, chiles and spices (except the cinnamon stick) in a food processor and pulse until smooth, adding water if necessary. Turn the heat on under the skillet again and scrape the onion-spice paste into it. Scrape the bottom of the pan to deglaze, then add the cinnamon stick, the tomatoes and a sprinkle of salt. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer 30 minutes.
Add the chicken, nestling the pieces down into the sauce. Bring back to a boil, cover, and simmer another 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the butter until it melts, then sprinkle on the cilantro. Serve with white rice.