Right now I'm in my happy place. We just had some friends over for a special occasion (shhh can't talk about it just yet) and one of my best friends saw all the photos of my kitchen-craft on my socials and begged me to make some for them. So here they were, a lovely family of 3, and our other best friend, all getting together for some good times. And since it was a special occasion I decided to pull the big guns out.
I decided to make the one, the only 3-Day Butter Chicken that I grew up eating as a child. It practically runs in my veins.
As long as I have lived in America, I haven't ever had this here. Unfortunately the popularity of the ubiquitous Chicken Tikka Masala exported from across the pond, has taken the spotlight off the original—the butter chicken—which is a very special age old recipe.
Folklore has it, that Butter Chicken was invented—like all great things—by accident, when the workers of a modest eatery—The Moti Mahal—decided to get creative with the leftover Tandoori Chicken and threw it in a simple sauce comprised of butter, tomatoes, fenugreek and cream and some spices. Voila, the king curry Butter Chicken was born! Till this day Moti Mahal exists in its original adorable modest capacity, as "One Of Asia's Finest Restaurants" a pretty hefty claim that I wouldn't dare challenge. It's that good. It's heaven!
Now onto my butter chicken recipe. It's the same. I dare not change a thing! There can be no substitutions here! It's not a sandwich or anything. You wouldn't call a John, a Joe would you? Or Alex, by some random Rob name?
This is what making butter chicken represents to me, an act of adherence to the original. A disciplined method ensuring that I am staying true to the original and enjoying an age old tradition in its true form.
Making the butter chicken is two kinda sorta easy parts. Once you get over the intimidating time that it takes to make—3 days— it's not so bad really. So part 1 is marinating the chicken and grilling it, so you end up with Tandoori Chicken. Part 2 is the sauce. Typically I'd marinate the chicken for 2 nights and let it get really really happy and then grill it, and then make the sauce on day 3, but since I had short notice this time, I went with one night only. Still, it turned out amazing! Never fails. Ok here we go!
The 3 Day Butter Chicken | Feeds 4 adults
Part 1: Tandoori Chicken Marinade
2 lbs boneless Chicken thighs (I used organic)
3 tbsp Kasuri Methi (Dried Fenugreek)
1/2 cup full fat Greek yogurt
1 tbsp Corriander powder
1 tbsp Garam Masala
Juice of 1 lime
1 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger
6 cloves garlic
1 tbsp Rajah Tandoori Chicken Masala (I highly recommend using this if you can)
Salt to taste ( I used 1 tbsp)
Part 2: Sauce
1 large can (29 oz.) tomato puree
3 tbsp oil (I used Grapeseed)
4 tbsp Kasuri Methi (Dried Fenugreek(
1 tbsp Garam Masala
3/4 stick of butter (add more if desired but you don't want to skim out here. It's called BUTTER chicken for a reason)
125 ml heavy cream
Salt to taste (I used 1 1/2 tbsp)
Part 1: Tandoori Chicken
Start by combining all the ingredients except for the fresh ginger and garlic, in a large bowl. Mix it up good.
Shave ginger skin with the tip of a spoon and peel the garlic as well. Crush the ginger and garlic and make as fine a paste as you can, I used a mortar and pestle. Add to marinade and combine well.
Wash the chicken and pat it dry with ample amounts of paper towel. Cut it into 3/4 inch chunks. Add to the marinade. Mix very well making sure that all chicken pieces are combined and coated well.
Transfer into a box with a tight lid. Close the box and let it sit for 2 nights in the fridge .
After 48 hours on day 3, take out the marinade and let it come to room temperature, about an hour or so. Take a baking sheet and line it with some foil and place the chicken on it, and throw some oil on top, just to make sure that it doesn't stick to the aluminum foil.
Preheat the over to 400 degrees for at least 20 mins. Here's what the meat looks like before it goes into the oven.
Place the chicken in the hot oven on the bottom rack for 20 mins. Do not peek or open the oven door. It will be fine! Trust me :)
After 20 mins. remove the chicken and wrap it up in the same foil, making sure that you retain the residual Jus.
Tandoori Chicken. Check.
On to part 2–the sauce.
Part 2: The sauce
Start a heavy bottom pan on medium heat (I used a dutch oven). When hot enough, throw the oil in the pot. After a minute when the oil is hot throw the Fenugreek in there, toasting it for a minute or so.
After toasting the Fenugreek, pop open the can of tomato puree and add it slowly to the pot. Be careful the oil might splatter.
Quickly, stir the sauce around making sure the that Fenugreek and the oil is combined with the sauce. One way to tell is that no oil should be lurking on the sides of the pot. The sauce and the oil should be one by the time you're done incorporating it.
Add the salt and the Garam Masala.
Stir well again and cover.
Reduce heat to low.
From this point on you'll be walking in and out of the kitchen, stirring this sauce every 20 mins. or so for a period of 1 1/2 — 2 hours or till the time the tomato sauce loses its acidic taste, in fact till it tastes sweet.
If for some reason you've elapsed the time of 2 hours or so and the sauce is still acidic (depending on the brand you used) you can add another tbsp. of oil, and that'll help 'fry' the tomatoes to sweetness. Worse comes to worse at the end of it all, you can throw 2 tbsp of sugar in the sauce.
So after an hour and a half, the sauce is beginning to turn sweet, throw in the butter and move it around making sure it melts all the way and ensure that it gets incorporated well into the sauce.
Next add the cream and mix well.
Now add the Tandoori Chicken and the Jus to the sauce and mix well. It's all coming together! Time to break into song!
It's beginning to look a lot like Butter Chicken! Joy in my body's every pore. But the prettiest sight to see is your belly, that will be so full, it can't take anymore.
Ahem! Ok back on track.
Stir the contents very gently making sure that you aren't breaking up any of the chicken pieces.
Cover and let simmer for another 15 mins. on a low flame.
Turn off heat.
This baby is ready!
Ladies and gentlemen, The 3 Day Butter Chicken just entered the building.
Now what do you do with this? How do you eat it? Me? I could take a bath in this! Haha seriously. But in a bid to appear normal and civilized I pair it with Garlic Naan (store bought). Throw those in a toaster over on high heat for 6 mins to get them a bit crispy and put some butter on those puppies. Yum!
Once done, plate it up and enjoy! Thank me later! This is a recipe so dear to my heart that it hurts me that I can't eat it everyday.
This is such a luxurious and savory recipe that it reminds me of my night out with my friends after we had a bit to drink and this was our ticket to culinary heaven! As long as I live I will never get bored of Butter Chicken. Spoken like a good Punjabi Boy. Hell I am one!
Nom Nom Nomaste.