butter chicken

I made a new chicken dinner and it is the chicken dinner to rule all chicken dinners.

Or so say I, aka Miss Humble Pants Know It All.

It irritates my husband to no end when I get all cocky with my food-love proclamations. The other day when I wrote about this chicken dinner and called it “THE BEST CHICKEN DINNER EVER,” the man got on my case.

“That’s a stupid thing to say,” he said. “You don’t know it’s the best chicken ever. You shouldn’t say those things.”

He’s right, I don’t know if it’s the best chicken ever. Just because I thought I’d died and went to heaven doesn’t mean I haven’t ever felt that way while eating chicken other times. What can I say. I’m a loose-praiser of chicken dinners. A chicken slut, if you will. Forgive me, World.

(My husband is going to blow his top when he reads that last paragraph. You don’t need to say all that, he’ll scoff. I’ll just ho-ho-ho and say, Read on, baby, and then he’ll read this parenthetical paragraph and get a wonky huge grin on his face. THE MAN HAS THE BEST SHEEPISH GRIN EVER.)

Earlier this week, me and a bunch of friends took our chatty selves out to dinner. We settled on Indian food, but when we got to the restaurant, it was closed. “How about Thai food?” someone suggested.

There was an awkward silence, and then I blurted, “I don’t really like Thai food.”

Gathered around the table at Indian Restaurant Take Two, I clarified. I do like Thai food, I said, but for some reason—maybe the restaurant?—all the food always tastes the same to me, sort of industrialized. (Am I the only one who thinks this?)

Anyway. One of the restaurant’s specials was butter chicken. I had no idea that my latest chicken dish affair was Indian! How could I have missed that important detail? (Especially since the recipe writer said it was Indian. Shame, Jennifer. Shame.)  I toyed with ordering the chicken, just to see how my version compared with the real deal, but then I decided, Nah, I love what I made, and it’s easy. I’ll try something different. So I got something else that I can’t pronounce, plus na’an with paneer, and it was wonderful, but I think I prefer my butter chicken. Moral of the story: there is no need to spend twenty-six dollars at an Indian restaurant when you can just whip up a pot of THE BEST CHICKEN EVER from the comfort of your home.

Scratch that. The food was awesome and my friends were even more awesome because they tolerated me eating from their plates à la Helen Keller. Plus, we had ourselves a jolly blast, laughed ourselves silly, and left smelling like exotic spices. Totally worth the splurge.

Now for the chicken. Here’s what you need to know:

*Mouth fireworks!
*My kids approved (though a couple were deterred by the heat, even with my chili pepper reductions, the wimps), and some of them LOVED it.
*I bet this could easily be made into a vegetarian meal: just use roasted cauliflower, carrots, and chickpeas (or zucchini, tofu, sweet potatoes, etc) in place of the chicken.

Butter Chicken 
Adapted from Camille’s recipe over at Flowers In His Garden.

The original recipe called for 1 teaspoon of cayenne, but I halved it and found it plenty hot. I’ve read elsewhere that the sour cream can be substituted with yogurt (preferably Greek, perhaps?), and I think the yogurt might actually be more authentic (but I don’t know that for sure).

4 tablespoons butter
¼ cup minced ginger
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds boneless chicken thighs, cubed
1 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
4 teaspoons cumin
1½ teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon chipotle (or cayenne) pepper
1 tablespoon salt
1-2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 pint tomato sauce
1 cup whipping cream
¼ cup brown sugar

Melt the butter in a large pot set over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and ginger. After a couple minutes, add the chicken and fry for a few minutes until it starts to brown.

In a bowl, stir together the sour cream, lemon juice, paprika, cumin, cinnamon, chipotle, salt, and black pepper. Add to the chicken and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the tomato sauce and bring to a simmer.

Pour the whipping cream into a bowl and temper it by slowly whisking in a couple ladlefuls of the hot tomato-sour cream sauce. Add the now-tempered whipping cream to the pot of chicken and add the brown sugar. Bring to a boil before reducing the heat and simmering for another 25 minutes.

Serve hot, over rice, with na’an and some weeds.

This same time, years previous: the hard part, an evening together, the quotidian (5.26.14), the quotidian (5.27.13), the quotidian (5.28.12), questions and carrots, one dead mouse, we love you, Wayne, the ways we play, de butchery, and just the tip.


  • Margo

    I think my favorite Thai food is fusion – what I make at home and two favorite restaurants around here.

    I've never made/eaten butter chicken, but I think I will try this.

  • Becky

    I am admittedly, not a chicken fan. But butter chicken? Hands down the best way to eat it. I love your idea of making this a vegetarian meal. I'm so going to do that. Let you know how it goes.

  • Mama Pea

    Dear Miss Humble Pants,

    Despite how your husband (with the best sheepish grin ever . . . I'm just quoting you here as I have no personal knowledge of same) tries to calm down your enthusiasm, I LOVE the way you write.

    A Devoted Reader

    • Jennifer Jo

      You are so right! Just this morning I told my husband that I think I'm FINALLY coming out of my post-play, rainy-weather slump. It only last five horrible weeks….

  • Suburban Correspondent

    So, how much of the sauce from the pot (is that what you mean by hot sauce here?) do you add to the whipping cream? What does "temper" mean?

    • Jennifer Jo

      Yeah, I wasn't very clear, was I! I went back and made some edits in the directions, as well as included a link that might explain "tempering" a little better. Does it make sense now?

  • katie

    I have been attending Indian Cooking School this spring (homeschool, of course), by immersing myself in Julie Sahni's book Classic Indian Cooking. Anyone with a decent library system could probably even check it out. She's great about explaining the way different groups of Indians cook versus how she likes to do it and why. I'm learning lots of basics which will then be able to be applied to whatever I have at hand.

    All this to say that this recipe looks great! And if you like it and this sort of food, you might want to check out Julie's book.

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