This is one of the most popular and beloved curry dishes of all, served in Indian restaurants around the world. It’s insanely creamy and luscious, with wildly aromatic spices many of which are probably in most kitchen cabinets. This is an easy dish to make and yet deeply savory and umami.
The yogurt-and-spice-marinated chicken becomes tender and fall apart luscious, coated with blended butter, onions, ginger and tomatoes, and scented with garam masala, cumin, coriander and turmeric. We urge you to find the authentic flavor of Kasoori Methi (dried fenugreek leaves), which the best Indian restaurants use… and with this secret flavor you can equal and even surpass restaurant versions in your own kitchen. In our recipe, even the pan used to sear the chicken is deglazed with chicken broth to gather up all those incredible burnt bits. Served over basmati rice with naan on the side, this little feast is intoxicating. And so easy to prepare!
Our recipe serves six. We urge you to make a big batch like this one, it’s great for lunches and leftovers for the following days, especially workdays. Like all curries, this dish is even better the next day when all the fabulous exotic flavors are totally married. If you only want to cook for two or three, divide the recipe in half. Enjoy!
3 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces
1 cup plain whole milk yogurt (we use “European Style” yogurt from Straus Dairy, which is tart and slightly runny, it coats the chicken pieces beautifully)
5 cloves garlic, crushed (about 3 tablespoons)
2 inches ginger, grated (about 3 tablespoons)
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper or Kashmiri red chili
2 teaspoons cumin, ground (we use a spice grinder)
2 teaspoons coriander, ground (we use a spice grinder)
4 teaspoons garam masala
2 teaspoons turmeric (we grind the actual roots in the spice grinder, it’s much more powerful, but be careful since they are very hard… we suggest you crush them first into small pieces in a mortar and pestle)
2 teaspoons sea salt (we apply it directly on the chicken thighs, both sides, before we cut them into bite size pieces)
Ingredients for the Curry Sauce
2 large sweet onions, chopped into fairly small pieces
28 ounces crushed tomatoes (we use canned San Marzano tomatoes from Italy)
1 cup chicken bone broth (to deglaze the pan used to sear the chicken,
those burnt bits are critical to the flavor of this dish)
1 cup heavy cream
5 cloves garlic, crushed (3 to 4 tablespoons)
2 inches ginger, grated (3 to 4 tablespoons)
4 tablespoon ghee to sear the chicken pieces
4 tablespoons butter to sauté the onions
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon Kasoori Methi (dried fenugreek leaves… a crucial flavor for this dish… only added at the end, with the cream)
1 tablespoon cumin, ground
1 tablespoon coriander, ground
2 teaspoons cayenne or Kashmiri red chili
1 tablespoon garam masala
2 teaspoons salt (to taste)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Combine all the ingredients for the marinade in a large bowl, add the chicken pieces and stir well so that every piece is fully coated. Cover the bowl and refrigerate while you gather the ingredients for the Curry Sauce. Like all yogurt marinades, the longer you marinate the more tender the chicken… overnight is best, but an hour will be fine.
Once you have all the spices for the sauce gathered in a small bowl and have both grated the ginger and crushed the garlic, you are ready to sear the chicken like Tikka Masala.
In a large 12 inch cast iron pan, heat the ghee on high heat and when it just begins to smoke, add the chicken in batches. We generally sear 1/3 to 1/4 of the total chicken at a time, keeping the chicken pieces separated from each other. (You can also sear them on the BBQ with skewers!) It’s important that there not be too much liquid from the yogurt in the pan, you really want that chicken to have seared browned bits on it’s edges and on the bottom of the pan as well. Each batch takes about three minutes on each side.
When you are finished, the chicken pieces should still be pink in the middle, they will finish cooking in the simmer sauce. When all the chicken is seared and charred, cover to keep warm and set aside.
While the pan is still hot, we now deglaze the cast iron pan with the cup of chicken bone broth. Using a metal spatula, we scrape up all the burnt bits.
Set aside that fabulous umami broth, we will use it toward the end when the sauce goes into the blender.
Using a large four to six quart Dutch Oven (a 6 quart Lodge ceramic Dutch Oven is perfect), melt the butter and on medium to high heat, sear the chopped onions until they are translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add the garlic and the ginger, stirring gently for a minute or so, and when the fragrance fills the kitchen, add all the spices, including the sugar and the salt, stirring until the spices have coated the onions, about 30 seconds.
Now add the tomatoes, already crushed by hand. Let his mixture simmer for about 10 to 12 minutes on low to medium, stirring occasionally. This sauce will slowly thicken and become dark red.
Using a ladle, scoop this sauce into a blender, now slowly add that amazing bone broth with charred bits until the texture is just right… smooth and creamy but not too loose.
Pour the now blended sauce back into the Dutch Oven and stir in the cream and very importantly, the Kasoori Methi… a crucial flavor for this dish. Finally add back the chicken pieces and its juices and simmer for about 10 minutes.
The last thing we add is a little extra butter, about 2 ounces… because it adds a creamy buttery flavor and a glossiness. The sauce should have a gorgeous darker cream color, like the cream from a strong Italian cappuccino.
Serve over Basmati rice and warm Naan, along with some cilantro for garnish.