Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Matt's Makkhani Murghi

CQ writes: Matt and I went to high school together years ago.  We both pursued musical careers as performers and ended up doing different things with our lives. Who knew that we would also both grow up to be such food lovers? Here is a recipe he recently posted on Facebook that he agreed to let me re-post here. I hope you enjoy it, as I know I will.

Matt's Makkhani Murghi

For years I went to my local Indian buffet thinking that what they called Chicken Tikki Masala was what I wanted. I had experimented with recipes over the years and been sadly disappointed. Recently, I came across a recipe for Butter Chicken that sounded very much like what I was looking for. I even learned that it was often mislabeled as Tikki Masala!

So after trying out an initial recipe and somewhat liking it I hit the internet and every Indian cookbook I could put my hands on. What follows is what I consider to be what I have been after all these years. It is lengthy, but there are things you can make ahead like the marinade and tomato puree and your spice blends. Marinate one day. Broil the next. Make the Tomato Gravy the day after that and assemble.

2.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts (cut into bite sized pieces)
1 tsp. salt
Juice of 1 lemon

For the marinade:
15 oz. whole yogurt
1 Tbsp. Paprika (chili powder if you really like a kick)
1 tsp. ground cardamom
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. celery seed
1 tsp. garlic, pulverized
1 tsp ginger, grated
1 onion, quartered

Cut up chicken into bite sized pieces. Sprinkle salt and lemon juice over pieces. Combine yogurt and next 11 ingredients. Pour over chicken and toss to coat. Cover and marinate for at least 2 hours to overnight (I even got away with an hour once, but the longer the better).

Tomato Puree:
4 large tomatoes
1 Serrano pepper, deseeded and membranes removed (please wash hands thoroughly following handling of the pepper)

In a food processor with the motor on, finely dice the pepper and add the tomatoes, one at a time, until fully pureed. Place in a container and refrigerate until ready to use (alternatively, 3 cups of canned tomato sauce could be used in a pinch, but the color of the fresh tomatoes is where it is at).

Broil the chicken:

Heat your broiler on HIGH for 20 minutes with the rack at least 8 inches from the heat source. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray it with canola oil. Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade with tongs and get rid of excess marinade by shaking the pieces before placing them on the sheet.

Broil for 10 minutes. Remove pan from broiler and flip pieces. Return to broiler for 10 more minutes or until pieces are brown with a little crisp on the edges (Note: Broiler temperatures and rack positions vary greatly. Please use your discretion when broiling. You are looking for fully-cooked, lightly brown bits with some charring on the edges to approximate Tandoori Chicken). Remove from pan and allow to cool completely. May be covered and refrigerated at this point.

Tomato Gravy:

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter (or even Earth Balance)

1” stick of cinnamon
1 Bay leaf
5 cloves
3 cardamom pods (or ½ tsp. ground cardamom)
1 tsp. pulverized garlic
1 tsp. pulverized ginger

Reserved tomato puree with Serrano pepper
1 Tbsp. paprika
¼ tsp. cardamom
¼ tsp. cumin
¼ tsp coriander
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 Tsp. roasted, ground cumin seeds

Sugar, to taste
1 Tbsp. dried fenugreek leaves (you absolutely can not leave this out. It makes the entire dish. I promise.)
1 cup Whipping Cream (half & half, evaporated milk or, at the very least, whole milk)
1 tsp. salt to taste
Lots of cilantro

Prepare the Tomato Gravy:

Melt the butter in a large 10” skillet, preferably cast iron. Once the bubbles have started to subside add the cinnamon stick, bay leaf, cloves and cardamom. Fry for 1 minute, or until fragrant. Add the garlic and ginger and fry for 30 seconds, stirring constantly.

Add the reserved tomato puree to the pan. Add the paprika and the next 6 ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then decrease heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until the puree has reduced by at least half.

Taste the sauce and add sugar as necessary to neutralize any sourness. (My tomatoes were fairly sour, so I needed about 2 Tbsp. of sugar.) Add the dried fenugreek leaves and cook for about 3 minutes.

Add the reserved chicken and toss to coat. Add the whipping cream gradually, mixing thoroughly. Bring mixture back to a boil, and once it reaches a boil immediately remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the cilantro and combine. Taste and salt, as necessary. Garnish with fresh cilantro. Serves 4.

Serve with basmati rice. (I even added ½ cup of frozen peas and ¼ tsp. cayenne to mine after the rice was done cooking and cooked for 5 minutes more. After that add 3 Tbsp. chopped cilantro and fluff with a fork.)

Sit back and listen to people have joygasms : )

P.S. I know that there are a lot of spices here. Like celery seed. I'm sure you could leave it out. If you don't have it, don't sweat it. I would say that the key things to have are paprika, cardamom, cumin, cinnamon, black pepper, cayenne and salt. All the rest just makes it more of your own special blend. Also, I have made this so many times without the fenugreek and let me tell you THAT was the missing ingredient. I found mine at my local Middle Eastern grocery store. A huge bag for $3. I will be using it in everything. It is both sweet and savory with a slight bitterness and to me it just smells rich. If any of you are adventurous enough to try this please let me know if you liked it as much as I did. I have rarely been so satisfied.


  1. thanks for this. I will try it! Once I asked an Indian friend of mine for her Tandoori Chicken recipe. She gave it to me handwritten on 12 pages of looseleaf paper. It began: "First, dig a hole in the backyard and line with charcoal." Needless to say that I never prepared the Tandoori Chicken, but I treasure the recipe.

  2. LOL! That sounds like a recipe my dad would break out. First, make a "Cajun Microwave"...