Butter Chicken

I like to think that what we call a dish is a pretty reliable indication of what the main components are.  For instance, if I say lemonade, you can pretty easily discern that a main ingredient is lemons.  If I say eggplant parmesan, you would most likely guess it has at least some eggplant in it.  And if I say bbq chicken, you would expect chicken bathed in some type of barbeque sauce.

So would someone kindly tell me what role butter plays in butter chicken?  Since the answer seems to be “nearly nothing”, why in the world is it called butter chicken?  When I hear butter chicken, I’m thinking the chicken is going to be dressed in some type of rich, buttery sauce.  I am most certainly not expecting my chicken to be swimming in a spiced tomato yogurt sauce.

Which is not to say that I didn’t enjoy butter chicken.  Or that I wouldn’t make butter chicken again.  I just think that when the powers that be were handing out recipe names, someone was distracted when butter chicken’s turn came up.  I really shouldn’t fault the recipe that it has a bad name.  You shouldn’t either.  Forget I even brought the matter up.

Butter Chicken

BAH Note:  I was so thrown by the fact that there is  so little butter in butter chicken that I failed to pay attention to the fact that the chicken needs to sit in the marinade overnight.  So not only was I disappointed by a lack of butter, but I had to wait an extra day to find out whether this was a deal breaker.

Adapted from Anna Johnston

  • 6 ounces plain greek yogurt
  • juice from one lemon
  • 1 teaspoon tumeric
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 14.5 ounces petite diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Combine the yogurt, lemon juice, tumeric, garam masala, chili, cumin, and ginger in a bowl.  Stir to fully combine.  Add the chicken and stir well to completely coat the chicken.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Heat the butter and oil in a nonstick frying pan over medium heat.  Add the onion, cardamom, cinnamon, and bay leaf and cook for approximately 5 to 7 minutes or until the onion begins to soften.  Reduce the heat to low and add the chicken, marinade, paprika, diced tomato, and chicken broth.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the cream and simmer for 10 minutes more.

Serve over rice and enjoy.

{printable recipe}