Folks...here it is. After four tries I think this is as good as I am going to get it. I really hope some of you will try this recipe in your own slow cookers and tell me how it turns out. I need feedback on directions (how clear they are) and cooking times. And - of course - taste taste taste taste!!!!!!!!
Butter Chicken (Murg Makhani)
Cooker: 5-quart medium
Settings, cooking times: low for 6 hours, makes 13 cups
Butter chicken is one of those dishes that has become synonymous with Indian food outside of India. I personally never grew up eating it. In fact, until I got married and we started ordering more take out from local Indian restaurants, I really hadn’t really tasted the dish. Regardless, who can say no to butter anything? Especially chicken?
After much research I found that there are many ways to make butter chicken. Some call for the chicken to be pan fried in butter before putting it into the sauce. Some call for cashews instead of almonds. I went with a recipe in one of my favorite Indian cookbooks, A Little Taste of … India and adapted it for the slow cooker.
If you make this dish and wonder why it doesn’t really look like the butter chicken you eat in most restaurants, congratulations, you’ve made it correctly! Most mainstream Indian restaurants serve tandoori chicken smothered in butter and cream as a poor substitute for the dish. On top of this, they add unhealthy food dyes for color. I won’t lie, there is butter and cream in here, but the calories are a mere blip up against all of the other fresh and healthy ingredients in this dish.
4 pounds chicken, skinned and boneless (I combine breast and thigh)
4-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped into 1-inch cubes
8 cloves garlic
1 cup blanched almonds
½ cup water
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt (fat, low-fat, or non-fat)
2 teaspoons red chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cloves (12 cloves - easy to do in mortar and pestle)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons garam masala
8 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed in mortar and pestle
2 tablespoons salt
5 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 large onions, thinly sliced
8 tablespoons ghee or unsalted butter (1 stick)
½ - 1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
½ cup heavy cream or half and half
Turn empty slow cooker to high while you prep.
Wash and cut chicken into 2 ½ -inch strips. Don’t cut it too small or it will dry out while cooking. If you are using frozen, be sure to defrost it completely before putting into the slow cooker. Set aside in a bowl.
In a food processor grind ginger, garlic, and almonds until smooth. Pour in water to help puree to a thick, almost creamy paste. To help the process turn food processor off and push almonds down from the sides and pulse again at once or twice to ensure the entire mixture is finely pureed.
In a bowl use a hand whisk to blend above paste, yogurt, red chili powder, cloves, cinnamon, garam masala, cardamom, and salt. Gently fold in tomatoes.
Pour mixture over chicken and mix well.
Put ghee or butter into slow cooker (which should be very hot by now). Allow it to melt – about 15 minutes. Put in onions and lightly fry for another 15 minutes, mixing slightly once or twice. Because this is done in a slow cooker the onions won’t get browned as they normally would on a stovetop. That’s okay. Just soften them in the butter. The slow cooker will do the rest later.
Add chicken mixture. Mix gently but thoroughly. Turn slow cooker on low and cook for 6 hours.
If you don’t want to make this much chicken, you can cut the recipe in half using only 2 pounds of chicken. It will cook just fine in the 5-quart slow cooker.