Butter Chicken – This Time It’s For Real

Before I started Blogging here at 5×2 I had another blog called the Mike/Mitch project. There was a lot of cooking and it was fun, but the cooking really started with my quest to replicate Moti’s butter chicken, otherwise known as the Butter Chicken Battle. It has been a while since my last attempt, but not too long ago I got my hands on a copy of the recipe the Moti’s cookbook. A friend of mine from Tokyo promised it too me early on in my quest and he was finally able to get it translated from Japanese. As you can imagine I was pretty excited to try it out.

Part I: The Cooking

Like any other task you need to practice to stay at the top of your game. I have been cooking this year, but close to the amount I was last year. I started by reading the recipe several times and while all of the ingredients were familiar the recipe had very specific directions on when to add things. I found myself once again converting from milliliters and grams to ounces and cups. Which turned out to be too much for my brain because I tried to double the recipe and I realized towards the end that I didn’t actually have enough of one ingredient. I ran out of butter. I had probably about 80% of what I needed. I consoled myself by adding a little extra cream, but it seemed a pretty big gaff given the name of the dish. I surprised myself by not panicking and I’m hopeful that no one noticed. Along with the recipe for Butter Chicken I also had the Moti recipe for Tandori chicken, which is suggested for the chicken, but not required. Again I made a classic cooking error by not allowing enough time for the chicken to marinate. It should really sit in the spices overnight, but I had company coming so I plowed ahead with just a few hours of marinating. I don’t think it hurt anything. I had my son Max poke hundreds of holes in the meat with a fork to help the spices mix into the meat faster. After the meat was mostly cooked in a 350° oven I started making the sauce. Despite my mistakes I was trying to be as true to the recipe as possible so instead of pureeing the tomatoes ahead of time I cut them into chunks and sautéed them in oil, cinnamon, and cardamom while crushing them with the back of my spoon. The results were better than I hoped and when I strained out the skins I found that I hadn’t lost very much of the tomatoes. It was quite a bit more work than 30 seconds in the food processor, but it was satisfying to see the sauce form.  Once the tomatoes where mostly crushed I added some butter, Garam Masala, Chili powder, and salt and brought to a simmer. After straining the sauce I added cream and milk and  simmered some more. Then more butter. Simmer. Add the meat. More cream and some paprika. Simmer some more. And done.

Part II: The Eating

I tasted the curry several times along the way and despite the chili powder and hot paprika it was never much more than mild. I knew early on that I had added too much cinnamon and/or cardamom for my taste. The rice was a little wetter than I like, but it still worked as a vehicle for the sauce, which there was plenty of – something that isn’t always true when we make a boxed butter chicken. Kira voted this one the best so far (other than Shan‘s). I enjoyed it and after having it for lunch a couple of times I really liked it.


I’d say second or third place, but I want to try this again with less sweet spices and the right amount of butter. It was great to be cooking something again.

Other dish I made:

I made a cucumber salad as a side dish which I thought went quite well with the meal.



Ingredients:                                                     Spices:

1 lb Chicken, breast                                      1 stick whole cinnamon (or 1/2 tsp less if you are like me and don’t want it to be so sweet)

2 tomatoes                                                       4 seeds cardamom, ground

4 Tbsp veg. oil                                                 1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 c butter   (1 stick)                                  1 Tbsp Paprika

1 Tbsp salt                                                       1 Tbsp Garam Masala

1 c heavy cream

3/4 c milk


Pre-cook the chicken breast by either steaming, par boiling or grilling and cut into bite size pieces.  If you are able, prepare Tandoori Chicken to add a deeper and spicier flavor to the butter chicken.  If preparing the chicken Tandoori style, make sure the chicken is boneless and cut into bite size pieces.

  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan.  Roughly chop tomatoes into chunks and add to frying pan. Add cinnamon and cardamom.
  2. While sautéing on high heat, crush the tomato chunks with spatula.
  3. Add half the butter, salt, chili powder and Garam Masala and sauté until the butter is completely melted.
  4. Remove the sauce from the pan and strain through to make a smooth sauce.  Return to pan.
  5.  Simmer on med heat for two minutes.
  6. Add half the heavy cream and all the milk and simmer to a light boil.
  7. Add another 1/4 heavy cream and remaining butter and bring back to a light boil.
  8. Add the chicken and stir to coat the meat.
  9. Add the paprika, and remaining heavy cream, turn off the heat and mix the sauce and chicken.
  10. Place the butter chicken on a plate or in a bowl, add a drizzle of heavy cream on top in a circular motion and serve with naan and rice.

Butter Chicken Battle




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