Not too much into Indian food? This dish might actually change the way you see curry dishes. Well, it technically is still a curry, but the addition of butter and cream in this recipe perfectly mellows down those strong flavors curries are known for, making this Chicken Makhani a rich, flavorful, and delicately-flavored Indian specialty.
Let me warn any die-hard Indian foodies out there that this is a slow cooker adaptation of a Murgh Makhani and is in no way prepared near to authentic versions. Let me elaborate along the way.
A classic preparation should go through two stages of marination. First, for a few minutes in some lemon juice then as I did here, in a mix of plain yogurt, chicken masala, turmeric powder, ginger-garlic paste, and salt. Leave the chicken in the second marinade for a minimum of four hours, or better yet, overnight.
A bottled mix of ginger-garlic paste should be easily available at Indian specialty shops. I like making this myself so I can get any other aromatics in such as onions and chili as I did for this take.
Get a spice mix. The one I’ve used here is pretty much close to what is traditionally used – black cardamom pods, cloves, cumin seeds. . .except for the fenugreek seeds which I used in place of the traditional fenugreek leaves due to non-availability in my place.
Let’s get cooking. The curry paste we just made should and always be roasted to intensify the flavors and aromas. Actually, they do develop a totally different flavor compared to using them raw, they really end up sweeter and less spicy.
Next, roast those dry spices. Like with the paste, roasting them would release the flavors and aromas.
Here’s where a Makhani differs from other curries, a good amount of butter is added into the pan. I’ve actually added mine late to this point, and used ghee for roasting those aromatics and spices, to keep the butter from burning given its low smoking point.
Here’s one more modification I did on the classic recipe. Instead of using whole tomatoes, I’ve added tomato paste. I just wanted a smoother gravy in the end so I stayed away from chunky ingredients as much as I could.
Time to get the cream in. Yes, instead of the usual yogurt or coconut milk used in most curry recipes, this actually uses heavy cream. Just imagine how rich this dish would turn out.
Here’s the major confession I have to make. An authentic Makhani should get its chicken “seared” in a Tandoori oven before it goes into the sauce. I don’t have a Tandoori oven, so I seared mine in a pan. Is there any difference? There is, a big one.
The temperature you get from a stovetop can’t get anywhere near the insane heat achievable inside a Tandoori oven. This translates to quicker searing = less meat juices lost = more flavor.
Well, I browned the chicken as well as I could before I put them into the butter sauce. From here, just get everything into your slow cooker and leave it for about 6 hours on a low setting.
Meanwhile, do whatever task you need to do, knowing you’ll be coming back to a very delicious Indian dinner.