Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Indian butter chicken, minus the butter

Lately, I've been feeling more inspired on the savory front than on the sweet side.  Don't get me wrong - I'm clearly still baking, and if anything, I've put more focus on revisiting and making my family's favorites.  In other words, there's plenty of sweets in our lives.  Sometimes - thanks largely to this blog - I do feel as though I have all the sweet recipes I could possibly need for a lifetime...but then I discover something really good I haven't had/made before and I'm jazzed again so I don't think I'll be giving up on my baking explorations anytime soon.
Indian butter chicken but without the butter
I just find that, lately, I'm a bit more open to picking up a great slice of cake from the pastry shop while I work on dinner instead.  I suppose it's just a nice change of pace.  And let's face it - there's a lot more room for savory meals than sweets in our day-to-day lives.  So as I've been focusing on eating healthier in the last couple of years, I've been cooking more and realizing that it's not so hard and actually really fun trying out new recipes, discovering new ingredients, and learning to mix them up.  Along the way, sometimes I find new favorites to put in our dinner or lunch rotation.  Even if not, it's nice to try something new here and there even if it only makes one appearance at our table.  It keeps things interesting for the cook, and hopefully her family too!

I love many kinds of foods and Indian food is one of them.  However, my knowledge base is sadly lacking and pretty much limited to the typical buffet spread that I indulge in once in a while.  I readily admit to my love of chicken tikka masala and I confess to replicating it at home the semi-homemade way. That is, I marinate chicken in yogurt and tandoori spices, then broil it, but finish it off with store-bought jarred sauce.  Sometimes, a girl needs a little shortcut...
Fast, easy, and lighter recipe - The sauce is made from low-fat yogurt and water; I topped it with toasted almonds here
...but sometimes not.  While I think semi-homemade is perfectly fine sometimes, it's even better when you can find easy, from-scratch recipes that are also quick and easy - plus, sometimes you get really lucky and it's healthier and more nutritious at the same time!  I think this is one of those recipes!  It's butter chicken, otherwise known as murgh makhani, somewhat similar to the ubiquitous chicken tikka masala.  I have to be honest, I'm not all that familiar with butter chicken since I'm always after that tikka masala but I was intrigued by this recipe that promises a lot of flavor in very little time and, to top it off, it's a healthier, lighter rendition.

There's no butter, or rich cream, in this particular "butter" chicken dish.  It's essentially no-butter butter chicken.  I was intrigued and had to give it a try and I have to say that it worked like a charm.  A mix of spices, along with tomato paste, gives the dish a slow, long-cooked taste when, it reality, it doesn't take much more than 20 minutes to cook up!  Low-fat yogurt and water creates the sauce and it is perfectly satisfying.  I'm no butter chicken expert so I had no particular expectations but this dish turned out very flavorful without being heavy at all.  I served it with some brown basmati rice, naan, and broccoli for dinner on a recent Sunday.
Needless to say, taking a dinner photo, before daylight savings time, when it was dark by 5pm, is very difficult : )


This dish comes together very quickly!  I expected to start by browning the chicken first but it actually begins with blooming all the aromatics and cooking the chicken last in the spice and yogurt-water mixtures.    

As you would expect, the key is in the spices.  As you can see from the recipe, there is a good lineup of spices giving this no-butter chicken dish a robust flavor.  My one piece of advice is:  prep - do the mise en place.  What I mean is have the spices, if not measured out, as least lined up, with lids off and measuring spoons at the ready.  When I made this, I thought I could easily grab the spices I needed from my cabinet.  The process took a lot longer than I thought it would (that's how I got such a dark color on my sauce since the spices had plenty of time to cook and brown), and I highly recommend being a bit more organized than I was in this case - it will make putting this dish together a real breeze. 

I made a few minor modifications to the original recipe.  Instead of all chicken breast, I mixed in some dark meat as well (both are good).  When it comes to the spices, I went out and bought garam masala - one of the spices I didn't already have but know I'll make good use of again.  Instead of buying cumin seeds, I used cumin powder, which I already have in the cupboard.  I tend to go a tad light on the cumin based on personal preference.  I also had to use a little less red pepper flakes since the little one ate this with us.  The dish did not turn out too spicy for any of us and if it were just my husband and I, I would definitely amp up on the red pepper flakes.

This doesn't make a lot of sauce and I did use a bit more yogurt and water so we'd have a little extra.  If you're like us and always want more, rather than less, sauce, you can do the same.


Recipe:

Indian Butter Chicken, Minus the Butter
Adapted from Bal's No-Butter Chicken recipe by Bal Arneson

- Serves 4 - 

1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1 small red onion, chopped
2 tablespoons grated fresh garlic (from 5-6 cloves)
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (I use the smaller amount based on personal preference)
1 tablespoon garam masala
1/2 to 1 teaspoon (to taste) red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon tumeric
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast (or dark meat, or a mixture of both), cut into bite-size pieces
1/4 cup low-fat yogurt (I used plain 2% Greek yogurt)
1/2 cup water
Optional: toasted almonds to sprinkle on top of dish; rice to serve alongside

Place oil into a heavy-bottom pan or skillet over medium-high heat.  Once the skillet is hot, add onion, garlic, and ginger, and cook for about 4 minutes until onion is softened.  Stir in tomato paste, brown sugar, cumin, garam masala, red pepper flakes, tumeric, and salt.  Cook together for about 2 minutes.  Add chicken and stir together to coat chicken thoroughly with the spice mixture.  Add yogurt and water, reduce heat slightly to medium, and cook, stirring often, until chicken is cooked through.  

Serve with rice, sprinkled with toasted almond slices on top, if desired.  This dish is good served immediately as well as made ahead and reheated.  




50 comments:

  1. Oh yum! I am a huge savory fan (savory over sweet for me!), so I'm always on the lookout for savory dishes that I know my family would enjoy! I love this lightened up version of chicken! What a great idea!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I didn't seek out a lot of new recipes to try in the past when it comes to savory cooking. I was more likely to do simple stir-frys and things but now it's been fun to look up recipes and make totally different things. I love chocolate so I can't live without that...and since I mainly "cook" for evening/dinner, I don't know how you guys take such nice pics for blogs when it comes to savory. Sweets is easier. : )

      Delete
  2. Hi Monica, I'm pretty much a savory person as well, until about 3 or 4 in the afternoon, then a piece of chocolate I must have. This dish sounds delicious!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am a good eater until late afternoon and then the sweets come in at night! I like a mix of everything. Even if you're not a huge sweets person, hopefully desserts make you smile. : )

      Delete
  3. A beautiful dish, Monica. Chicken pieces in this dark, tasty sauce...who can resist that...? :) ela

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Ela. It's surprisingly light.

      Delete
  4. Wonderful recipe Monica - I would love to make this! How smart to use yogurt. We put Greek yogurt on everything anyway - we use it mixed with hot sauce as a topping for anything grilled. This is right up my alley - thanks again!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm really amazed by how great yogurt is as a substitute to things like cream, sour cream, etc. It's a wonder for sure!

      Delete
  5. A scrumptious meal, Monica. I love that it's made with canola oil instead of butter.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I usually always use oil instead of butter in savory recipes that call for it. I hear from some that onions cooked in oil can make it bitter but I've never noticed an issue. I use olive oil almost exclusively but where another oil is called for, I go canola. The original recipe uses grapeseed oil but I don't have that.

      Delete
  6. Yum! What a great dish. I love that it has yogurt in it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Jenn. I was amazed by how quick and easy it was - and it tastes like it would take a lot longer to put together.

      Delete
  7. I don't eat a lot of Indian food but I bet I would like this! I like the idea of adding dark meat, too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you would like it...and I think dark meat is just usually better!

      Delete
  8. This looks so delicious Monica! We are big fans of butter chicken and Indian food and I love that you are sharing more savory dishes :) What an awesome way to lighten this dish up by using canola oil instead of butter - love this and thanks for sharing :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd love to know how this lighter version compares to the usual butter chicken you eat! I really enjoyed this and I'll be making it again soon. Thanks, Kelly!

      Delete
  9. I've been the same way lately Monica! Don't get me wrong I still love baking but I've been in a more savory mood the last month or so when it comes to cooking. I think I've maybe made 1 or 2 Indian dishes ever ... which is crazy. So thank you for sharing this one!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So interesting...I wonder if we over-indulged during Christmas? But for me, I don't think so...I think it's just more variety and getting the benefit of eating/feeling healthier when the savory cooking? This recipe is really quick and not heavy at all...I think you'd like it.

      Delete
  10. Murgh Makhani - a favourite of both my husband and I when we travelled in India!! So flavoursome without being overly 'rich'. The dark meat addition is very authentic too! I make a mild curry every now and then, perhaps I should give this one a try, it looks wonderful? Super post Monica :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! I have to try it at an Indian restaurant soon to have a more ready comparison versus this homemade version. I always go for the chicken tikka masala. I do love curries - Indian, Thai, Japanese, etc. All great!

      Delete
  11. Yum, this looks so good! Tons of great flavors going on and looks like it would totally warm me up with all these cold days we've been having lately. When does spring finally come?! haha

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Chris - thank you. I think Spring is finally coming...I know it is literally coming but I can actually feel it now. So glad to see the end of all that snow and cold...

      Delete
  12. Oh! I love this dish, and without butter sounds even better, this way I can have an extra serving...
    Thanks for the recipe Monica...hope you are having a great week :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is definitely a lighter, healthier alternative. Tastes good, too...so I have no complaints.

      Delete
  13. My husband loves Indian food! We have some friends from India and we both have been hooked ever since. He likes to use chicken thighs to cook with. Love this!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Indian food is great...I should get more adventurous about it because I know there's just so much great food out there. I prefer chicken thighs too.

      Delete
  14. I love going the savory route (though you know I definitely love my sweets)...especially if it involves Indian food! I've actually never made butter chicken (or butter paneer), but the.boy had it at a restaurant the other day and it looked delicious. Must try your version of the sauce!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hear you - got to have a balance. Savory sustains us but a little sweet keeps us sane. : P This was my first "butter chicken"...so easy to put together that I'll definitely think of it when I want a quick chicken dish. The sauce just comes together; it's great!

      Delete
  15. So glad I clicked over here today, Monica! Now I know what we are having for dinner! We love Indian food and are lucky to have an excellent restaurant, minutes from our house, where we often get take-out. Recently, I have begun to try to make some of our favorites (or variations on our favorites) at home. Consequently, I have all of the spices needed for this recipe sitting in my cabinet!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so glad to hear that. There's nothing like sharing some good recipe finds. : ) My husband used to have to bring home Indian takeout on many a Friday nights to satisfy my Indian food craving...but lately, I've been making "fake-outs" at home...and now this dish is one I can do from scratch and it's so fast and easy..hope you try it!

      Delete
  16. This recipe is so up my street - and so healthy too. I *must* try it for dinner soon! And I'm definitely with you - more sauce is best

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's definitely worth a try since it's so easy. Thanks, Aimee.

      Delete
  17. Oh yeah! Fantastic! There is nothing more that I love than Indian butter chicken! I order it all the time and now I can make it myself!

    ReplyDelete
  18. You know, Monica, I am Indian and I have many recipes on my site if you ever want to cook from scratch! Most are quite easy because I rarely post the dinner party ones that take a life time to make! One of the differences, and maybe the only difference actually, between chicken tikka masala and butter chicken is the use of dried fenugreek leaves in butter chicken. That and the butter changes the taste of it totally from chicken tikka masala. Also, chi tikka masala is not authentically Indian, it was created in the UK by an Indian restaurant! Now, your version, looks really good! healthy, vibrant and delicious.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Nazneen. Your website is definitely one of the ones I'd refer to for some authentic Indian dishes...I am just taking very baby steps. : ) I have indeed heard that chicken tikka masala is a UK creation (the "official" dish of the UK?) and not authentically Indian..but I have to admit, I just love it!

      Delete
  19. I totally hear you on the savory cravings lately,and this dish looks like it'd hit the right spot. Love it served over rice too! Wishing this was for dinner tonight!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh yes, have to have rice with so many things, including this. : )

      Delete
  20. Actually I am more of a savory girl than a sweet lover so this dish is a winner with me. I love your twists on making an old favorite healthier. You make even brown food look good in your photos, how do you do that?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ha - thank you. If it looks decent, credit goes to luck. And speaking of "brown" food, my favorite thing is chocolate - photographing that is a challenge!

      Delete
  21. I love the idea of a no-butter butter chicken! maybe that's weird, but i've felt the same as you lately; tis the season, perhaps, but i find myself gravitating more towards savory than sweet myself. It's made it hard for the blog, but nice for myself, b/c i'm eating better things and not craving the sweet stuff as much. sometimes, still. :) this is gorgeous: definitely a recipe i'd make for myself anytime.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Same here - no-butter butter chicken is just what I need. It's so fast and easy...worth a whirl!

      Delete
  22. I totally understand Monica, I have been so into cooking more at home and like you said, getting a slice from a bakery. Change is good! This "butter" chicken looks so creamy you'd never know the yogurt replaced it! Great job!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Jessica. I'm really amazed by how well yogurt works in making a creamy sauce. For me...I think that as I cooked more, I realized it wasn't so hard and it's actually delicious, much healthier, and far cheaper - all great benefits that make you want to cook more and more. : )

      Delete
  23. What a lovely dish! I didn't know you could make it with out the butter and it still looks this creamy.. I am enjoying the extra light in the day as well :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It tastes good, too! Not heavy so you walk away from the table being full and satisfied without being weighed down. Enjoy springtime!

      Delete
  24. I'm not complaining about this abundance of savory dishes: you make them look so good! Especially this lovely "butter" chicken. I can't believe it is healthier than the real deal - it looks incredible! I love this kind of recipes : )

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad, Consuelo. I'm always on the lookout for lightened up favorites, too. This is a great, more nutritious option over the traditional.

      Delete