Friday, June 8, 2018

Butter Chicken

I think I’m in love with Sam Sifton, who is the New York Times food editor. But I only recently figured out why, when I read a brief profile of Chef/Editor Sifton in the NYT Sunday Magazine last month. It’s because he thinks about food. He analyzes it. He’s endlessly curious about how dishes are made and why they’re made in one particular way. But he doesn’t stop there: he takes all the information he collects and reduces any given recipe to something that an ordinary person can make in her or his own kitchen at home. He “gets” food.

In searching for inspiration for this week’s MLK recipe, I discovered I had carefully saved one of Sifton’s NYT articles from 2014, in which he offers a wonderful aromatic chicken recipe, one that originated in Australia and is essentially Indian in spirit (and spices!). Lucky me, I had most of the ingredients, including the spices. So I decided it was time to try it (with, as always, a few small changes).

Butter Chicken                                                                       

1-1/2 cups full fat yogurt
2 Tblsp lemon juice
1-1/2 Tblsp ground turmeric
2 Tblsp garam masala (or a curry mix)
2 Tblsp ground cumin
2 lbs chicken parts 

1/4 pound unsalted butter
4 tsp oil
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
3 Tblsp fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 Tblsp cumin seeds

2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
Kosher salt to taste

1/2 cup chicken stock
1-1/2 cups cream
1-1/2 tsp tomato paste

Whisk together the yogurt, lemon juice, turmeric, garam masala and ground cumin in a large bowl. Add the chicken and coat with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate (for up to a day). 

Yogurt plus spices
Chicken added
In a large pan over medium heat, melt the butter in the oil until it starts to foam. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until they are translucent. Add the garlic, ginger and cumin seeds and cook until the onions start to brown.

Chopped ingredients

Add the tomatoes (no need to skin them), chopped jalapeno and salt, and cook until the chile is soft, about 10 minutes.

Add the chicken and marinade and cook for 5 minutes, then add the chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes. (Yes, the sauce will look curdled at this point, but that’s what happens with yogurt—it will smooth out a bit in the next step.)

Whisk together the cream and the tomato paste, stir it into the pan, and simmer for another 10-15 minutes.

Cream added

Serve with rice. The result is richly flavored, the spices well balanced. Even the jalapeno doesn’t dominate but blends well (not too spicy!). 

And! Still counting down to the release of Murder at the Mansion at the end of this month. 

The book gets a rave review from Library Journal:

Kate loses a job, consults on a historic property, and finds a body, all in one week. It’s a heck of a week! … Connolly’s accomplished series launch incorporates humor, a realistic setting and well-developed, appealing characters.

Find it at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.


  1. How did I miss this recipe and that article? this looks delicious and I love Sam Sifton too. Off to look...

    1. The article was in the May 5th paper. The descriptions sounded familiar--because in a way he approaches food in much the same way we at MLK do, with curiosity and flexibility. We enjoy food!

  2. My comment is not food related and I don't know where else to make it. When I want to print a recipe, any recipe, and click on the "print friendly" button/icon - I get upwards of 200 (200!!!) pages to print. My computer and printer do NOT like this. Is there any way your computer gurus can make it so that only today's post and recpipe are "printable"? I'd really appreciate it. And this sounds like a wonderful recipe, which I am going to (try to) print without major fiddly-farting around. Thank you


  3. Oh my gosh, this sounds amazing!

  4. I adore butter chicken and this recipe looks accessible. Many thanks!

  5. This sounds delicious! I think this also qualifies as Keto without the rice!

  6. Sheila - Marc and I often order the Butter Chicken from a local restaurant (Pakistani), but we've never attempted a version at home. Thank you for sharing this.

    Just want to add a note on the sad news of Tony Bourdain's tragic passing. He was an inspiration to so many of us in sharing his love and insights into the beautiful wide world of food. RIP Anthony Bourdain.

    ~ Cleo

  7. This sounds delicious. I look forward to try it.

  8. Eek, a whole stick of butter with cream and full fat yogurt too. Kind of frightening in this day in age. I'll probably try it just subbing fat free half and half and leaving the butter and yoghurt as is to make it a tiny bit lower fat.

    1. I'll admit that looked like a LOT of butter when it melted in the pan. Plus there seemed to be a heck of a lot of the marinade. Betcha Sam weighs about 110 pounds.

  9. Love this recipe. I keep replacing all my spices at least every 18 months to 2 years or more often as suggested. And I just got many of these spices just two weeks ago so it's time to break their seals?!! I love recipes with aromatic and full flavored ingredients and sauces with the butter, cream and yogurt. This recipe gets its uniqueness and flavor from the wonderful combinations of ingredients which my husband really adores.. thank you for giving me the idea to make it.

    Can hardly wait for Murder at the Mansion.

    1. Good for you, to replaced aged spices. I sometimes reuse old jars because they were my mother's but old spices do lose flavor.

      I also love to buy weird spices, just to see what they're like. Like galengal (love the name!), and a few Russian ones that I needed a dictionary to translate. Even if you never cook with them, they smell wonderful.

  10. That sauce looks & sounds tasty.