Velvet Butter Chicken – Murg Makhni

Velvety Cumin Butter Chicken

I make chicken often, in various forms, using various techniques and trying various cuisines. Yet, there are two dishes that have been my never-fail-to-wow-beyond-belief picks when I know I have to impress. Both are rich, super yummy and special occasion dishes (though you can make them every day if your life is all about good, rich and memorable dishes. But I have a feeling you will ultimately encounter the Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility, which would be too sad). One is the ethereal Persian dish, Khorest-e-Fesenjan (chicken fesenjan). The other is a staple Indian speciality called Murg Makhani (Butter Chicken, Murg-Chicken, Makhan-Butter, Makhani-Buttery :D). I am always debating which one tastes better and so is V. He loves the fesenjan too much and yet gobbles down the butter chicken as if there is no tomorrow. So I figured to let you guys try them out and decide for yourself. Let me know since that would be fun :D. We pick Butter Chicken for today with chicken Fesenjan to follow soon.

If you have visited an Indian restaurant, had the privilege of eating meat at an Indian home or have found FoodNetwork’s Aarti Party to be addictive, chances are you have come across butter chicken (or Murg Makhni in Hindi). Man didn’t make butter so that Paula Deen could declare it to be the love of her life. Man made butter so that it could be added to this dish to give it a super rich taste. Cumin seeds were cultivated so that they could lend their fragrant aroma to this smooth-as-silk dish. The tangy sweetness of tomato, the silkiness of cream and the kick of paprika combine to lend a taste, just the thought of which can make you salivate and lose your sense of table manners. With a touch of coriander leaves, the dish gets elevated to a nirvana state of taste, aroma and appearance. If you had to choose and make only one entree dish out of all the yumminess that this blog offers, take my word for it and try this one (even though I am still on the edge between this and the fesenjan). But this is hard core Indian, and originated in India (unlike it’s famous cousin, chicken tikka masala, which originated in the english restaurant kitchens serving Indian food) and I want you to experience the mind blowing taste that Indian food has to offer. 😀

I originally came across this recipe in Julie Sahni’s Classic Indian Cooking book and, true to my style, adapted the recipe to come up with this version. The adaptation was primarily to account for the change in serving size, type of chicken used and relative ease of preparation. Believe me when I say, you will never regret making this. 🙂

For the Chicken
2 lbs wings/chicken thigh – skin on or skin less
4 tsps tandoori chicken masala (available at any Indian grocery store, specialty food stores, international farmer’s markets and/or online)
2 tbsp red food coloring
4 tbsp hung curd (or normal curd but avoiding any water)
2 tsp ginger paste
2 tbsp garlic paste
1 tsp salt
For the Sauce:
4 mildly pungent green chillies (if using very hot ones, use 2)
1.5 tbsp chopped fresh ginger
3 cups fresh ripe tomatoes (or 2 cups canned ones)
4 tbsp butter
2 tsp cumin seeds
2.5 tsp ground cumin
3/4 tbsp paprika
1 tsp salt (or more/less to taste)
3/4 cup cream (Regular Cream OR use half and half.  You can also use whole milk to save on calories but will miss out on taste & consistency)
1 tbsp garam masala (optional but preferable. Available at any Indian grocery store, specialty food stores, international farmer’s markets and/or online)
2 tbsp packed chooped coriander leaves

For the Chicken
De-skin the chicken if using with-skin ones.  Make 2-3 deep gashes in each piece for the marinade to seep well. Add all the marinade ingredients in a large bowl and mix to make a paste. The red colour gives it a very typical and appealing taste once cooked. Dunk the chicken pieces in the marinade, tossing to coat well. Cover and let marinate overnight (preferably) or at least 4 hours. Do not marinate the chicken for more than 2 days.
Take the chicken out of the fridge at least an hour before baking. Heat oven to 400 degree F. Lay out the chicken pieces in a shallow dish and roast in the oven for 25-30 mins (you can take also choose to broil or grill it alternatively. Another option would be to pan fry them in a single layer till done). Once the chicken is done, take it out of the oven and keep aside.
(TIP: for the marinade that is left over once the chicken pieces have been set to bake, mix chunks of vegetables like onions, bell peppers, potatoes, broccoli, asparagus  or squash in it. Bake (along with the chicken but in a separate dish, at 400 degree F for 15-25 mins. Goes great with the baked chicken or as a party/game day side).

For the Sauce
Puree the chillies, ginger and tomato to a fine paste and keep it aside.
Heat butter in large heavy bottomed pan. Once the foam subsides, add cumin seeds, ground cumin and paprika and stir vigorously for 10-15 secs. Add tomato spice puree to the pan and stir on medium high. Keep stirring till sauce thickens and starts leaving the sides of the pan (5-7 mins). Add salt and cream and stir to mix well.
Gently add the chicken pieces in a layer and coat with the sauce. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for about 10 mins, stirring once or twice in between (don’t disturb the chicken except for turning it once). Add in the garam masala and mix it in. turn off the heat and let the dish stand covered for 30 mins before serving.
When ready to serve, add the chopped coriander leaves. Serve with plain rice or tandoori roti/naan, with a side of sliced onion and cucumber salad.

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2 Responses to Velvet Butter Chicken – Murg Makhni

  1. Ayse says:

    I will try this so soon. I’m sure it will be my favorite 🙂

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