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Butter Chicken with a Vengence

The Cooking:

I will describe the curry in a minute but first…The rice was once again delicious. It was better than last time if possible, but I really miss my rice cooker. The directions for the rice last week were very specific and easy to follow. The directions this for the 10 lb. bag of Basmati that Kira bought for me are a little less specific. “Boil with lid off until water level is below rice,” means you have to actually watch the pot. In case you are wondering that happens a lot faster than you would think even with six cups of water. It all worked out, but it would be nicer not to have to worry about it.

Cooking Beer:

PILS Czech Style Pilsner brewed by Lagunitas Brewing Company in Petaluma California. I enjoyed this beer immensely. Maybe it was just a nice counter punch to the spicy curry, but it worked for me.

The MDH directions started off with the fun directions of cut the chicken and “marinate for 30 minutes.” It did not, however, say what to marinate the chicken in. From the beginning I think it is fair to say that this recipe was the one where I deviated the most from the directions. Using my now vast experience cooking Butter chicken I created a marinade from the masala, water and lemon juice. After reading the directions and opening the box it was clear that the MDH masala was not meant to be a one time spice packet, but rather a spice you keep in you cabinet and use to make butter chicken many times. I guessed at how much spice to use for the marinade and when I make this again I will probably use more and then not add any spice later during the simmering.

Next I substituted cashews for the almonds which I was supposed to blanch, peel and grind. The directions allow for that switch, but it still felt like cheating. Poppy seeds were also an acceptable replacement.

Even though I had read all the way through the recipe as I was making it made a rookie mistake. I read the line “make a paste of 100g onions and 120g tomatoes” to mean make a paste of the two things together. Turns out I needed two pastes one of onions and one of tomatoes. This became apparent at the line “Add tomatoes…” What this really meant was that my onions didn’t get cooked enough and I believe it just made the sauce a little thicker than than it would have been and the chicken didn’t smell as tasty as it could have when I was sauteing it.

I tasted the sauce (using Naan) throughout and it had quite the zing to it. I got that numb tongue feeling again so I knew it was going to be good. Part of the directions say to “check seasoning” which I interpreted as “add more spice.” I had pretty much decided to add a cup of cream before serving even though the directions were simply to garnish with a teaspoon of cream. Since I didn’t want the dish to be bland I added enough spice so that the cream would not cover it up. I may have over estimated.

Beer with Meal:

Burning River, a handcrafted Pale Ale brewed in Cleveland by the Great Lakes Brewing Company. Quite good and with the level of spice it was much appreciated.

The Eating:

It should be apparent by now that this week’s Butter Chicken is the spiciest one that we have had to date. Our lack of air conditioning in the house was a nice cover for the beads of sweat that appeared on my forehead. In my opinion it was not too spicy. Kira would probably disagree with me on this, but she did clean her plate. I could still taste the chicken which melted in my mouth and the rice was pretty close to perfect. I plan to use this spice mix again since I still have some, but I will make some changes to the recipe.

And yet it still didn’t match the first batch I made for overall flavor. I’m not sure what it is that sets the Shan’s masala apart, but I will get a chance to recreate it next week in Colorado. I hope it is as good as we remember because the natives are getting restless. Max and Sarah have not been on board from the beginning – they really only like the Naan and that is getting old I guess. Even Melanie this weekend hinted that maybe we don’t need to have Butter Chicken every week. I am pretty sure that Kira is still with me on my quest – She bought me the rice didn’t she.

Verdict: Spiciest. Good flavor, but not as good as week one. Great fluffy Basmati rice.Best Beer so far.

Things I learned while making this:

The MDH website is amazingly annoying.

Fenugreek leaves are what give butter chicken it’s distinctive flavor. All of the spice packets have had this in them except the MDH I made this week.

Recipe

Butter Chicken Masala

Cut 500g chicken pieces and marinate them for half an hour. Mean-while make paste of 100g onions and 120g tomatoes. Also blanch, peel and grind 10 almonds into a fine paste adding ¼ cup water. Alternately cashew nuts or 20g poppy seeds can also be used. In a flat pan heat 50g edible oil and cook chicken pieces & onion paste till translucent for 10 min. Add tomatoes, almonds paste & 15g Butter Chicken masala. Add water. Cook for 15 min. till right consistency. Check seasoning. Serve with 1 tspn. cream poured on top.

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