MB Manion Morell

Butter Chicken

MB Manion Morell
Butter Chicken
Butter Chicken

I’ve had three unique curry dinners this week.  Plus leftovers.  I consider myself to be a very lucky, if somewhat curry-infused gal.

The recent, utterly charming movie The Hundred-Foot Journey rekindled a longing for Indian food. (Can I admit I love that movie so much I watched it twice in a row on a recent flight?  It has everything I crave in a movie – gorgeous scenery, lots of laughs, a romance – and the bonus: fantastic French and Indian Cuisine.)

First up on the circuit – curry in Florida.  Last weekend my parents hosted an engagement party for my brother and his amazing bride-to-be. Mom was looking for a festive, chef-worthy meal, so decided on her super secret retro chicken curry recipe (which may or may not have involved jars from Trader Joe’s.)  She jazzed up the presentation with a colorful selection of condiments – toasted coconut, mango chutney, raisins, crushed peanuts, scallions and finely diced pineapple.

Butter Chicken

That was such a smashing success, I decided to serve a curry to my book club on Thursday night (party of 18).  I tried a Thai-style dish made with lots of coconut milk and red curry paste, that may or may not have included a jar of Trader Joe’s Thai curry sauce.  (Note: A big pot of curry is one of those make-ahead meals I adore.  It allows me to be free of fussing in the kitchen, so I can talk without breathing the entire length of the gathering.  It was an excellent book.  I needed to talk a lot.)

Though the Thai curry was hugely popular, to be honest, I have an Indian recipe I love more… This rich, luscious Butter Chicken. I do recognize it is utterly obsessive to create a new curry immediately after washing out the pot from the previous night’s curry, but that’s the way I roll.  We were expecting guests Friday night, and I still had curry on the brain.

This particular recipe comes by way of Sam Sifton at the New York Times, which came to him via Australia.  I made it once late last summer, and it took me back to some of the great curries we enjoyed while posted in London. (Oh how I miss our favorite local Indian take-out: Holy Cow.) I lightened it a bit and tinkered with the spices a smidge this time around (the original recipe calls for full-fat greek yogurt and heavy cream… which was incredible, but I was sure I could do it a bit lighter.) The on-the-bone chicken thighs were replaced with bite-sized pieces of white meat from chicken tenders. I also provided a selection of condiments.  I have to admit I’m not sure is an authentic way to serve Butter Chicken, but it is certainly a fun way to serve it – and delicious.

Again, it proved to be a perfect make-ahead, low fuss way to enjoy an evening with friends.

One day I hope to travel to India and immerse myself in the spices and cuisine, but cooking lovely Indian food at home will have to do for now.  And I could find a few more Indian-inspired movies to watch.  Bend it Like Beckham has been a favorite for years… but I understand The Lunch Box is excellent – perhaps that the next one I watch while dreaming of new Indian dishes to try…

Butter Chicken

Butter Chicken

Adapted, Just Barely, from Butter Chicken by Sam Sifton in the New York Times

Serves: 6


  • 1 ½ cups fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 ½ tablespoons ground turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons garam masala
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 3 pounds chicken tenders, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • ¼ pound unsalted butter (one stick)
  • 4 teaspoons canola oil
  • 2 medium-sized yellow onions, peeled and diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 3 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and grated or finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 medium-size tomatoes, diced
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • ⅔ cup chicken stock, low-sodium or homemade
  • 1 ½ cups half and half
  • 1 ½ teaspoons tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons ground almonds, or finely chopped almonds


  • finely diced pineapple
  • crushed peanuts
  • chopped scallions
  • raisins
  • toasted coconut
  • finely chopped bananas
  • mango chutney


  1. Whisk together the yogurt, lemon juice, turmeric, garam masala, cumin and curry powder in a large bowl. Put the chicken in, and coat with the marinade. Cover, and refrigerate (for up to a day).
  2. In a large pan over medium heat, melt the butter in the oil until it starts to foam. Add the onions, and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent. Add the garlic, ginger, and cumin seeds, and cook until the onions start to brown.
  3. Add the cinnamon stick, tomatoes, red pepper flakes and salt, and cook until the chiles are soft, about 10 minutes.
  4. Add the chicken and marinade to the pan, and cook for 5 minutes, then add the chicken stock. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for approximately 20 minutes.
  5. Stir in the half and half and tomato paste, and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, approximately 10 minutes.
  6. Add the almonds, cook for an additional 5 minutes and remove from the heat.
  7. Serve with rice, and garnish with any of the suggested toppings.