Vaisakhi | April 14

butter chicken

We discovered this Sikh holiday when we were fangirling Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on YouTube (doesn’t everyone do that?) and stumbled upon his heartfelt Vaisahki message of fairness, respect and equality for all. He had us at respect. This holiday celebrates the founding of the Khalsa community within the Sikh faith. Sikhism, the world’s fifth largest religion, is a monotheistic religion that began in the fifteenth century and is based in the Punjab region of India. It originated in the teachings of several gurus, and follows principles called the “Five Ks”: honesty, equality, fidelity, meditating on God—known as Waheguru—and resisting tyranny. The history of the Sikhs is a martial one: after the British annexed the Punjab, they recruited Sikhs to fight with them under the British Raj, which put them at odds with the Muslim and Hindu populations of India. There are 27 million Sikhs in the world today, the vast majority in India, with large populations in Canada and the U.S. as well as in Europe.

Punjabi cuisine includes many of the dishes that many of us know generically as Indian: tandoori meats and poultry, curries of goat and other meats, and the cooked cheese called paneer. We wanted to feature an amazing dish that is richer and more complex than its name suggests: chicken bathed in a sauce of cream, tomatoes, onion and fragrant spices. It’s the ultimate Indian comfort food. Serve with some of our sweet and sour fresh mango chutney, and either plain basmati rice or your favorite pilaf and plenty of naan to go around.

Butter Chicken

This rich dish is in the repertoire of most Indian cooks and is similar to the chicken tikka masala on almost every Indian restaurant menu in England and America. This is pretty much a next-level explosion of flavors and totally worth the effort. Ideally, you should marinate the chicken overnight, but a few hours will work in a pinch. Boneless chicken breasts or boneless thighs work equally well here: it’s just a matter of preference. Be sure to serve with warm naan to soak up every last drop of sauce.

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs

For the marinade:

4 garlic cloves, smashed

2-inch piece of ginger, coarsely chopped

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp salt

½ cup plain yogurt (not greek)

3 tbsp cilantro leaves

1 tbsp lemon juice

 

For the curry:

4 tbsp butter (½ stick)

1 tbsp vegetable oil

1 onion, diced

4 garlic cloves, peeled & minced

1 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled & grated

2 tsp garam masala

2 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp cumin

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

3 tbsp tomato paste

1 cinnamon stick

1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup chicken stock

1 tsp salt, or to taste

1 cup cilantro leaves for garnish

For the marinade, combine all the ingredients in a food processor and puree. Cut the chicken into 3 inch pieces, or larger if you prefer. Toss the chicken with the marinade, cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight if you have the time.

Meanwhile, in a large heavy pain over medium heat, melt the butter in the oil until it starts to foam. Add the onions and cook until they start to brown. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for a few minutes more. Add the cinnamon stick, tomato paste and spices to the pan, stirring frequently until spices are fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Next, crush the tomatoes with your hands and add them to the pot along with the chicken stock. Bring to a simmer and add the heavy cream. Reduce heat to medium low and cook, stirring occasionally until sauce thickens, and flavors meld, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and cover until chicken is ready. Refrigerate if assembling dish the next day.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and place a wire rack inside the pan. If you don’t have a rack, you can place chicken directly on foil-lined baking sheet. Remove chicken from the marinade and arrange in a single layer on rack or directly on foil. Bake until tender and pieces start to brown, about 15 minutes.

Place cooked chicken in the pan with the sauce and stir gently. Warm over low heat for 5 minutes and serve. Garnish generously with the fresh cilantro leaves.

Serves 6

Mango chutney3

Fresh Mango Chutney

While you can buy cooked mango chutney in most supermarkets, the piles of ripe mangoes available right now inspired us to create a chutney that’s more like an Indian-inflected salsa. The mangoes are barely cooked, and the result is juicy, sweet and tangy, a perfect foil to the rich chicken curry.

2 tbsp unsalted butter

6 pitted dates, chopped

½ tsp mustard seeds

¼ tsp chili flakes

1 tsp curry powder

1 tbsp fresh chopped ginger

2 ripe mangoes, preferably yellow ones, peeled and diced

Juice of one lime

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and add dates, mustard seeds, curry powder, chili flakes and ginger. Stir and cook for about five minutes, until dates are soft and spices are fragrant. Lower heat to medium low, add mangoes and cook for two minutes. Stir in lime juice and refrigerate until use.

Makes about 1½ cups chutney

One thought on “Vaisakhi | April 14

  1. Lovely post! Can’t wait to try this recipe. So interesting. I’ve been meaning to see this film done by a college classmate. Premise is that their daughter asked what it means to be Sikh so they traveled around the world to find out, and documented their trip.

    Like

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