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 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...
...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.
|Fast, easy, and lighter recipe - The sauce is made from low-fat yogurt and water; I topped it with toasted almonds here
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.
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.