So Diwali was the beginning of November (5th). I went to my annual Diwali potluck. Yum, so much goodness. Much of the food was happily decimated in short order, but here was my favorite table. The desserts. Homemade gulab jamun (so tiny and tender!), cheesecake, carrot halva, some bars, and some kind of pistachio pudding thing. So good. I ate SO many gulab jamuns.
I made butter chicken, which was met with some amusement by my Indian buds since I’m not at all Indian. It was like when a little kid says “I’m making dinner!” and proceeds to go to their play kitchen and make ‘dinner’. I forgot to get hot peppers to garnish/spice the hell out of, which is evidently the authentic way, but otherwise this was met with some good reviews. From Indian people! Sweet, I earned some Indian food street cred. I think. Maybe. The Indian folks I know are harsher critics than my Chinese family when it comes to food. No words are minced. If it’s not great, they’ll tell you exactly how it could be better. The only thing they said was that it could be spicier, but I was expecting that since I’m a genious and forgot the peppers.
My first secret weapon was using a book from Nita Mehta, this really awesome Indian chef. It was a Punjabi non-Vegetarian cookbook. Butter chicken. Oh yeah. Marinate and cook skinless chicken like tandoori chicken, and put it in a tomato gravy.
The tomato gravy was like an Italian ragu, except it is way more full of fat. Hey, it’s called butter chicken for a reason. But I couldn’t help but think of a similarity between the two – spending a few hours over the stove stirring marinara = hours over the butter chicken gravy as it reduced and burned my hands with random sputters from the pot.
So once the gravy was made, I chopped up bits of chicken into bite-sized pieces and put them all in a crockpot until the next day. Super easy.
It turned out that most of the other dishes at the Diwali potluck were vegetarian. Whoops. More vegetarians this year. But a bunch of non-veg people piled large scoops of this Butter Chicken over some rice, too. I stuffed myself on everyone elses dishes. Palak paneer, the best biryani rice I’ve ever had (with a good amount of heat), bread pakoras, samosas… Oh, it’s a shame Diwali only comes once a year.
The recipe was something like this:
Make tandoori chicken.
Butter Chicken Gravy
Canned tomatoes, pureed
Garlic and ginger paste
Kashmiri chili powder
Cashews, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes, then ground into a paste
So melt a bunch of butter (at least a few tablespoons) or ghee in a pan on low/medium. Toss in your bay leaves and sautee them until they soften up a bit. Add garlic and ginger paste, cook until fragrant.
Add in tomato puree and let it come to a simmer. This is a good time to soak your cashews. You only need to soak them for about 10 minutes before they become soft enough to make a paste out of, but more time won’t hurt either. Once the tomato puree comes to a simmer, add in as much kasmiri chili powder as you want (in terms of tablespoons, that is), depending on how spicy you like it.
Let it reduce a little bit, and add the pureed cashews, and then let it reduce even more. You want this to reach a thick, gravy-like consistency. This part is not quick. If you want to cheat a little, you can add a little can of tomato paste to speed things up.
Once it’s super-thick, combine it with your chicken (either whole or chopped into bite-sized pieces). If you remembered to buy hot peppers, add them here. Add the garam masala about 10 minutes before you’re ready to serve it. Garnish it with a generous drizzling of heavy/whipping cream on top.