Saturday, April 30, 2011

Mock Butter Chicken

I was on a mission to achieve similar consistency and flavor profile of butter chicken without the butter. How would I do it and why? For one is the kosher issue, although sometimes kidding-ly on twitter I claim myself to be The Rabbinical Council of Shulie, I don't claim myself to be a kosher authority. I grew up adhering to not mixing milk products with meat and to this day I abide by it. Secondly, as you might know already, this site is hyper sensitive to some food allergies, mainly tree nuts, but this version will be a nice option for the lactose intolerant. In addition I wanted to achieve a healthier version without so much cream and butter while not compromising flavor. It meant I had to play with it.
This series of photos are from the second batch of mock butter chicken I made within a week. I gave it a twist while almond milk could be an option it won't be in line with the tree nut free character of this site, also it wouldn't have the thicker consistency I was looking for. Lite organic coconut milk was the perfect solution, as it has a more creamy consistency to it. While I love the flavor profile of coconut milk in this dish, it was mild and delicate and not overly punctuated even for leftovers the second day. Since butter chicken is of Punjabi origin, a Northern Indian dish, and I grew up on mostly Maharshtran cuisine as my parents are from Bombay, I used a recipe from India: The Cookbook by Pushpesh Pants as an inspiration.
The two batches varied in method. The first time I fried the marinated chicken as asked for in the recipe in two tablespoons of canola instead of butter. The second time I grilled the marinated chicken to mock a tandoor for a home based cook without a tandoor clay oven. Original recipe bakes/grills the marinated chicken in a tandoor and then adds it to a sauce to cook further. The grilled batch was the most authentic. The first batch I marinated for couple of hours, maybe three, and the second batch I marinated overnight, it just worked out that way out of convenience. The dish is so flavorful that I didn't notice the difference though I would recommend to marinate the chicken at the least for two hours in the fridge.

The first batch I didn't use crushed dried fenugreek leaves which I don't have much taste for, but in the second batch I added one out of two teaspoons of crushed dried fenugreek leaves asked for in the recipe, to see if I might, just might change my mind and develop a taste for it. I didn't develop a taste for fenugreek, did you notice I didn't say unfortunately, and in the process needed to balance with more sugar when used fenugreek leaves. First batch I used one to two teaspoons of sugar. You can use up to one tablespoon depending on taste but the batch with fenugreek leaves needed two tablespoons of sugar.

Now on to the color and consistency, when fried the sauce developed a red film where beneath you find the creamy chicken. When grilled the sauce didn't develop the film. I liked it both ways. There are many versions to this recipe and color is dictated by how much red chili, tomatoes, spices and white be it a yogurt, cream  or coconut milk you use. Therefore it can vary greatly from pinkish to deeper reds. Most Indian chefs I read achieve deeper red color. In the first dish I large cubed the chicken, similar to chicken kebabs, in second I left the boneless thighs and  breasts whole. If cubing you will need to skewer and grill, if using whole, skewering isn't necessary.

In both versions where asked in the recipe for cream and yogurt I substituted with lite coconut milk and when asked for one stick butter I substituted with two tablespoons canola oil. To add a twist to the mock in the Mock Butter Chicken, I used a fresh Southern Indian garam masala mix that was sent to me generously by Manisha of Indian Food Rocks who I mentioned in my The 411 on Champagne Mango Post here. Any garam masala should work here. Last mock, a cooling cucumber and lite coconut milk as a twist on the raita (cucumber yogurt condiment).

Mock Butter Chicken
Ingredients:
2 1/4 Lbs boneless chicken, cubed or whole

For the marinade:
1 Tablespoon garlic paste
1 Tablespoon ginger paste
2 Tablespoons Kashmiri or regular red chili powder (can tone down dish with less powder)
2 Teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 Teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 Teaspoon ground turmeric
1 1/2 Teaspoons garam masala
2 Tablespoons lime juice
2 1/4 Cups lite coconut milk
1/2 Teaspoon salt

For the sauce:
2 Tablespoons canola oil or another oil like sunflower
6 Medium tomatoes, pureed in a food processor
1 Teaspoon red chili powder
1 Teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves (I say skip this)
1/2 Teaspoon garam masala
3 Tablespoons lite coconut milk
Salt to taste

1 Teaspoon to 1 tablespoon sugar according to taste

Directions:
For the marinade mix garlic and ginger pastes, add chili, coriander, cumin, turmeric and garam masala, lime juice and mix. To the spice, pastes and line mix add coconut milk, mix and then add salt. Add whole or cubed chicken to marinade and chill in fridge for at least two hours or overnight.

While chicken is marinating, make the tomato sauce. Heat up 2 tablespoons of oil in a large pot (so we can add grilled chicken later) and add pureed tomatoes and salt to taste, cook on low/medium until deep red color is achieved and much moisture is evaporated. Add the chili powder, fenugreek leaves if you wish and garam masala. Mix and take off the heat. At this point if you plan to make the chicken same day, keep sauce off heat outside. If you plan to marinate chicken overnight, let tomato sauce cool and refrigerate in pan.

Skewer chicken if cubed and grill for 5-6 minutes on each side. Whole thighs and breast need not skewer. Alternatively you can broil in the oven for 5-6 minutes on each side. The chicken will cook longer in the sauce so no need to worry if not cooked through and through.

Add chicken and any excess marinade (if broiling add to tomato sauce excess marinade from broiling pan as well) to tomato sauce, add sugar and cook on low/medium for 20 minutes longer on top of the stove. Take off heat stir in 3 tablespoons of coconut milk and serve with basmati rice or Indian bread. 

Bon Appetit!! This dish is Delicious!!

30 comments :

  1. I love the color of this dish... it just screams flavor! Maybe I'll make this for E while I chow down on veggies

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  2. YUM. Love the photos, that blue is *spectacular* I also love the addition of lite coconut milk to the sauce & maranade...sounds decadently divine!

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  3. This sounds absolutely delicious, Shulie, and I like the way you shared the process by which you developed the recipe. Thanks for another delicious post!

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  4. I can smell it as I read through the ingredients! And taste its yumminess as I drool over your pics! I will give this a shot soon and let you know what I think because it has everything I know I will like!

    So glad you liked the garam masala. It's what I use in my regular butter chicken and most of my curries.

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  5. This looks soooo delicious! I really appreciate your explanation of how you achieved the taste, texture and color (magnificent) you were looking for. Just a quick question: what type of tomato did you use in the sauce, plum?

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  6. I can almost taste this dish. The grilling of the chicken and additional sauce gives the dish depth of texture and flavors. How would you adapt it to fish or vegetables?

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  7. Thx Bri. You can make it with vegetable as well & if you want to make it with fish let me know I will explain how. Thank you so much Wenderly, Jonathan thought it was an elevated Butter Chicken, was really decadent. Thank you Domenica, means so much coming from you especially about the recipe development. I always wonder if I am being coherent and if I convey correctly the process when writing posts such as these. Thank you Manisha, let me know what you think once you make it and thanks again for teh garama masala. Thank you Deb.I was a champion of plum tomatoes for the longest time but for years now switched to tomatoes on the vine. I use tomatoes on the vine now for my Italian tomato soup too.

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  8. Shulie, your chicken looks wonderful. The color alone is mouthwatering. Have a great weekend!

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  9. This looks great, Shulie! Butter chicken sans butter sounds like quite a challenge. Would you recommend India: The Cookbook to someone who has no experience with Indian food? I want to learn some Indian dishes but don't know where to start. Meanwhile I'll try some of your recipes.

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  10. Hey Ken, yes most definitely. Pre skewer veggies, include onions, then marinate for couple hours only. Grill for few minutes on each side. Prep red sauce as directed in recipe add to it the excess marinade from veggies and further cook down together w/o veggies until right consistency reached. Pour over veggies and serve.
    For fish. Choose beefy fish like tuna and such. Cube into kebabs size you can alternate veggies and fish cubes on skewers and marinate for two hours. Grill and follow as directed in recipe and comment above.
    With veggies and fish not necessary to cook further in combined tomato and marinade sauce. Make sure the marinade is cooked before serving especially when marinating fish in it.
    I hope this helps.
    Thank you Nisrine. You too enjoy your weekend!!

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  11. Thank you Yuri!I love India Cookbook but it isn't a beginner friendly. It has 1,000 recipes in it. A good Indian Cookbook author to begin with would probably be Madhur Jaffrey.

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  12. Thanks for sharing the process with us! I love how the end result looks!

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  13. great recipe and now i am hungry to make this dish - but what i love even more Shulie, is how you take us step-by-step AND tell us the 'why' - terrific!

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  14. wow looks great. Sorry i'm just seeing this. Still no power..:(

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  15. Can't wait to try this recipe!! Though knowing me I will have to tone down the chilli!! And I personally love the fenugreek! And love Garam Masala..has become a staple in my kitchen! Will try the idea of doing with grilled veggies, but would also recommend for Vegans (and I will definitely try it) to sub the chicken with Gardein chick'n scallopini http://www.gardein.com/products.php?t=frozen&p=5 I've used it in everything from fake chicken marsala to fake chicken kiev!!

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  16. Thank you Simone and Debra. Am so happy you and other readers responding well to the step by step of the hows and whys of my recipe development:). No worries Alison, thanks for dropping by regardless of the circumastances. You are a trooper no elelctricity for five days!! So sad to hear about the devastation down south! Thanks Mdivani Garden in sounds like such a fantastic choice for the closest most authentic vegan results. Kudos to you and thank you for the terrific suggestion for all of the vegan readers. Though not as authentic thought grilled paneer or tofu will be good too:).

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  17. What a great 'easy' way to make a complex dish. It looks delicious!

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  18. This is a fantastic version Shulie. You have given the classic a whole new look.i need to try this out. love everything about this recipe.

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  19. Wow! We just had butter chicken last night at our favorite local Indian joint and here you are posting your own version. This is fantastic! Love, love butter chicken with basmati rice and lightly toasted naan. Perfect comfort food!

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  20. Wow Shules! I like the Rabbinical Council of Shulie!!:)This looks AMAZING. The colors and flavors. Are you sure there isn't any butter?;) Coconut milk must add amazing flavor to the chicken. I have to try this recipe. (I will be bugging you for tips on twitter):D

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  21. Gorgeous chicken. great looking sauce too .. you have definitely given it a Maharashtrian/Manglorean twist with the coconut milk. Very interesting to see coconut milk in butter chicken, I must try this version!

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  22. Butter chicken is one of our favorites & this looks like a very interesting take on it.

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  23. @Indie.Tea Yep. Thank you. By cooking tomato sauce in a large pot then you cut back on pots and pans to wash:). It isn't really complicated dish if you have all ingredients ready to go, I also decided to make tomato sauce ahead while chicken marinating instead of waiting for the chix to be done marinating.
    Yes, Thank you Soma,I like how you put it. Thank you Jun, isn't it?! Jonathan loved it too and we ate it all week since I made it twice within a week. Thank you Lora, I know you aren't huge into spicy so you can cut back on the red chili powder. Thank you Sneh:) Let me know when you do and how it turned out. Thank you Kat, yep a bit of a twist:).

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  24. This looks amazing. Love it!! Thanks for sharing it with us.

    Cheers.
    Velva

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  25. At first glanced I was drawn in by the amazing color on this dish. But after reading how you put it together, I know the flavor must be amazing. LOVE IT!

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  26. I made butter chicken last night and it sure did look awsm and taste awsm. But now reading your version .. i feel like trying this out .. beautiful color !!

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  27. Thx Velva. My Pleasure. Thx Eliana!! It was delicous and didn't get tired even when I made it twice within a week. Thanks Kankana Your butter chicken sounds yum! Let me know when you do try this version out!

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  28. With all those flavors, I know this would be fantastic!

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  29. Last week I posted a recipe for a yogurt-marinated chicken, and a friend of mine who keeps kosher was asking me what she could substitute. I was thinking that perhaps light coconut milk, with a little acid in the form of vinegar or lime juice, would do the trick. I'm glad to see you did the same, and that it worked!

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  30. I don't understand how I missed this post but I'm so glad I'm here now. I can almost taste this, Shulie. I like everything that went in this and really, I've had a craving for some chicken stew-type comfort food. I'm also with you on skipping the fenugreek. :-)

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