Tim and I made this fantastic dinner a few weeks ago one evening when I was feeling in the mood to make something a little more involved than usual. The dish isn't difficult, but it does take a while between making the sauce, removing the skin from the chicken (ew!), browning the chicken, and then cooking everything together and finishing the sauce - a great dish to have two people for so one person can start on the sauce while the other works on the chicken. The sauce didn't turn out particularly spicy, largely because the recipe simply called for "green" and "red" chilies and I had to guess as to which ones to use. You might taste the sauce and see if you want to add additional chilis if you make this dish. Besides the heat, the sauce has fantastic spices (cumin, cardamom, and ginger) that taste wonderful together and really make this chicken special - well, all that butter doesn't hurt either!
Since the chicken is so rich, a bright veggie salad is the perfect accompaniment. Although this carrot salad has Moroccan flavors rather than Indian flavors like the chicken, the two dishes actually pair really well together. The dish is made extra-delicious by the addition of slowly caramelized Meyer lemons. Along with lots of spices, orange juice, and a pop of green, the shredded carrots are elevated to a whole new level. This salad also keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days, so make the full recipe and enjoy the leftovers!
Murgh Makhani (Butter Chicken) (adapted from Fat)
2 onions, coarsely chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
1 ounce peeled and coarsely chopped ginger
8 cardamom pods
2 tsp toasted cumin seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 green chiles
1 dried red chile
¾ cup water
3 pounds chicken pieces on the bone (I used thighs and drumsticks)
Coarse sea salt
2-3 T ghee
Two 3-inch cinnamon sticks
14 ounces canned tomatoes
1/4 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup unsalted butter, diced
Chopped cilantro, to serve
1. Place the onions, garlic, and ginger in a food processor. Remove the seeds from the cardamom pods and add the seeds to the food processor along with the cumin seeds, and peppercorns. Remove the seeds from the green chiles and discard. Chop the chiles and add to the food processor along with the red chile, complete with seeds. Add 1/4 cup of the water and process until the mixture forms a soupy paste. Set aside.
2. Remove the skin from the chicken. Season with salt.
3. In a large frying pan, heat 2 T ghee over high heat and brown the chicken in batches, adding more ghee as necessary. Transfer to a plate. Lower heat to low and add the onion-spice mixture to the pan. Using a wooden spoon, deglaze the pan, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom. Add the cinnamon sticks, tomatoes with their juice, remaining water, and 1 tsp salt. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.
4. Add the chicken pieces and any juices to the sauce. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes.
5. Transfer the chicken to a dish and keep warm. Remove the cinnamon stick from the sauce, add the cream, and bring to a boil. Boil, stirring often, until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat and stir in the butter pieces until melted. Return chicken to the pan and stir to coat with the sauce. Sprinkle with cilantro, add a squeeze of lime juice, and serve.
Moroccan Carrot Salad (adapted from Aarti Party)
1 large Meyer lemon, washed, sliced into thin rounds, and then quartered
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for lemons
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 pinches cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon orange zest, plus 1/4 cup orange juice (from 1 orange or so)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 medium carrots, peeled and grated (about 4 cups)
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
Juice of 1 Meyer lemon
1. Place the lemon pieces in a cold skillet. Add a generous amount of oil to cover the bottom of the pan and heat over low heat until the rinds soften and begin to brown and caramelize, about 20 minutes.
2. Whisk together the cumin, cinnamon, ginger, cayenne, orange zest, and orange juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Whisk in 1/4 cup olive oil, then taste and adjust for seasoning. Add the carrots, raisins, cilantro, and pine nuts and toss to combine. Remove the caramelized lemon from the skillet with a slotted spoon and add to the salad; toss to combine. Add the juice of half the lemon, taste, and add the remaining juice if desire.
3. Store in the refrigerator until serving time.