The Grill Who Played With Fire
Butter Chicken Battle (6)
There is a lot of cooking this time. I have taken it easy with the Butter Chicken Battle hoping to find a spice packet that will give me the quick and easy answer. Of course we all knew it wasn’t going to be that easy. For this installment of the Butter Chicken quest I used a recipe I got from a little cookbook I found sitting by the register at an Indian grocery store. I had high hopes for this one because the origins seemed pure.
LandShark Island Style Lager, Margaritaville Brewing Company, St. Louis, MO – A refreshing beer that probably would have been better if the day had been warmer and I was sitting out on a boat somewhere.
The first directions in the recipe instruct me to cook the Tandoori Chicken. Challenge accepted. I created the marinade for the chicken last night and put it in the fridge overnight. All in all making the tandoori chicken was very rewarding. The effort was minimal and I ended up with some pretty amazing chicken. The second hardest part was removing the skin from the chicken breasts. You can’t buy skinless bone-on chicken breasts (at least not at my grocery store). I have to say that removing the skin was easier than the deboning I did for the Chicken Sandwiches. The hardest part about making the Tandoori Chicken was not eating it immediately after I pulled it off the grill. It smelled and looked amazing. I did pinch a corner off of one of the pieces. Delicious.
I set the chicken aside to cool.
After a couple of hours I returned to the kitchen to complete the meal. When I was planning this iteration of butter chicken I decided to go all out. If I was making the tandoori chicken from scratch, why not the Naan as well? A quick search of the Googles led me to a recipe for Naan and I could use my grill – perfect. I actually stumbled on a few Naan recipes, but the one I chose is from a blog called No More Microwaves. It was really easy to follow and he included pictures of the steps along the way. The recipe worked mostly as he described it and I think it turned out well. The recipe does warn that the dough will be sticky and he is not lying. I think this bread suffered the fate of most of the dough I roll out – too much flour. When I am rolling out dough I tend to cover everything in flour – the table, my hands, the rolling pin, and usually the floor. It adds flour to the outside of the bread and unfortunately you could taste it a bit in the finished product. This did not ruin the experience for me because in the end the Naan is just a vehicle for the curry.
The dough had to “rise” for about thirty minutes which gave me time to start the butter chicken gravy. Making the Naan was a stretch of my cooking talents, but cooking the gravy brought me back to a my comfort zone. I sautéed the ginger-garlic paste in oil and butter, then added the spices and tomato puree. The purée needed to simmer for a while to cook down. The liquid for this gravy is milk and cream – not tomato juice. I sipped my beer and reviewed the recipe for the naan. I timed the last few steps of the gravy to give me time to cook the naan. While the milk and cream were simmering with the tomato gravy and tandoori chicken I popped outside to grill the naan.
It worked amazing well. Having never done anything like this before it would never have occurred to me to throw raw dough on the grill. My logical brain assumed it would ooze down through the grill slats. Not so. I tried a piece hot off the grill and it was salty and chewy. Even with the extra flour it was delicious.
Just as the naan is finishing up and I am going to check on the butter chicken it hits me. I forgot to make the rice. Rice has become an integral part of this experiment because if for some reason the curry doesn’t turn out at least there will be some tasty basmati rice to fill us up. Half of my brain said that we could just eat it with the naan and it would be ok. The other half was saying that we really needed rice. Kira agreed with the second half so we threw the naan in the oven at 200 to keep it warm, I turned the curry down to a simmer and put the rice on to boil. I think this was all meant to be, like some sort of cooking, butter chicken, curry karma. While the rice was cooking I tasted the curry. Usually I would taste along the way, but I was so distracted by grilling the naan that I was just mixing everything together and moving on to the next step. I took a small spoonful of butter chicken gravy and…meh.
It was OK, but didn’t have much flavor. I doubled the spices. Also while I was out grilling the sauce had reduced by quite a bit and the gravy was almost a paste. I doubled the milk and cream. This of course reduced the curry flavor. I doubled the spices again (four times the original recipe). In the end I achieved some good flavor and I threw on a garnish of cream and coriander.
Beer with Meal:
Edmund Fitzgerald, a handcrafted Porter brewed in Cleveland by the Great Lakes Brewing Company. I can’t describe it better than the brewer, “A complex, roasty porter with a bittersweet, chocolate-coffee taste and bold hop presence.” I really enjoyed the bitter flavor. It was a great compliment to the curry.
After waiting the extra half an hour for the rice to cook I was hungry. And grumpy. I took it out on my cooking. I complained that the naan was too flour-y, The curry still didn’t have enough flavor and I should have cut the chicken off the bone before simmering it. I think most of the griping was in my head, but I’m guessing I wasn’t a very pleasant dinner companion. Then I got some food into me and I calmed down. I noticed that as we discussed the merits of this new recipe Kira, Melanie and I were all ripping our naan and dipping into the sauce from the pan because we had run out of sauce on our plates. The flavor of the sauce built the more you ate. It was mild, but had a hint of spiciness that lingered until I took a sip of my beer. All of the naan got eaten which doesn’t usually happen when we get the store-bought version. Most of the sauce was gone by the time we stopped eating and if I had cut up the third piece of chicken we probably would have picked at that as well.
Best Homemade Naan so far. Latest prepared Rice to date. Second on flavor. (Possibly third I recall liking the Ustad spice packet, but it was a while ago.) Baby bear level of spiciness (just right).
Makhani Murg recipe from The Best of Chicken Recipes, Anu Kshetrapal, Nita Mehta publications
Relished by almost everyone!
- 1 tandoori chicken – cut into 8 pieces
- 2 tbsp butter, 2-3 tbsp oil 1 tej patta (bay leaf)
- 2 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
- 1/2 kg (6-7) tomatoes – blended to a very smooth paste
- 2-3 tbsp cashewnuts – soaked in hot water for 15 minutes, drained and ground to a very fine paste with a little water
- 1/4 tsp kashmiri or degi mirch
- 1 cup milk, 2 tbsp cream
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp tandoori masala
- 1/4 tsp sugar or to taste
- salt to taste
- Prepare tandoori chicken
- To prepare the makhani gravy, heat butter and oil together in non stick pan. Add tej patta. Stir for a few seconds. Add ginger-garlic paste, cook until liquid evaporates and paste just changes color.
- Add pureed tomatoes, mirch, and sugar. Cook until pure turns very dry and fat separates. Add salt to taste.
- Add cashew paste stir for 2 minutes on medium heat. Remove from fire and cool for 15-20 minutes. Add milk and about 1/2 cup water to get the desired gravy. Return to fire. Keeping on low heat, bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
- Add chicken. simmer for 2 minutes till the gravy turns to a bright colour. Remove from the fire and stir in cream, stirring continuously. Add garam masala and tandoori masala. Stir. Remove from fire. Garnish with 1 tbsp fresh cream, slit green chilies and coriander.