Chicken with Raisins and Almonds (Butter Chicken)

I had some butter chicken a while ago and while it was very tasty, it wasn’t what I was used to. Not that that’s a bad thing at all… it’s nice to try a different take on an old favourite to see how someone else interprets the dish. However, this alternate taste whetted my appetite for some of the butter chicken I knew and loved.

It’s unlikely that any Indian restaurant without butter chicken on its menu would be very successful. I know that I order it (or make a beeline for it at the buffet) any time I’m eating Indian food. Most often, the chicken is marinated overnight in yogurt and spices, then roasted. Afterwards, the chicken is cut into pieces and coated in a delicious sauce made of butter and cream and tomatoes and more spices.

The recipe I used doesn’t follow the traditional steps, but the point of the method used here is to be less hands on when making the dish. This has my support and on top of that, the finished product tastes fantastic and is much closer to the butter chicken I am familiar with.

This is what happened.

Got the chicken breasts.

Chicken breasts.

Chicken breasts.

Cut them into bite-sized pieces.

Bite-sized pieces of chicken.

Bite-sized pieces of chicken.

Got the butter.

Butter.

Butter.

And the raisins.

Raisins.

Raisins.

Measured the almonds.

Almonds.

Almonds.

Measured the tomato paste.

Tomato paste.

Tomato paste.

Measured the yogurt too.

Yogurt.

Yogurt.

Assembled the spices and seasonings.

All the spices and seasonings.

All the spices and seasonings.

Put all the ingredients into a large pot and turned on the heat to melt the butter.

Unmixed and unmelted.

Unmixed and unmelted.

Mixed all the sauce ingredients together.

Butter chicken sauce.

Butter chicken sauce.

Added the chicken pieces.

Added the chicken.

Added the chicken.

Took the time that it took to cook the chicken to make some basmati rice.

Chicken with Raisins and Almonds (Butter Chicken), served.

Chicken with Raisins and Almonds (Butter Chicken).

Chicken with Raisins and Almonds (Butter Chicken).

The original recipe is from Hands-Off Cooking: Low-Supervision, High-Flavor Meals for Busy People by Ann Martin Rolke.

Chicken with Raisins and Almonds (Butter Chicken)

This is an Indian recipe that my friend Alexei Rudolf and I developed to match a dish served at a restaurant in El Cerrito, California. It’s a very flavourful but not too spicy stew, with the satisfying crunch of almonds and a touch of sweetness from raisins. You can add any number of colourful vegetables to this dish—3 cups of broccoli florets layed on top just at the end is a good choice. The saffron adds a distinctive aroma and flavour, but it’s not essential. Serve with steamed rice and raita.

Try to find Italian tomato paste in a tube and use it as directed to replace the paste in this recipe, or freeze any leftover paste from a can in an ice cube tray and store the cubes in a self-sealing plastic bag for recipes when you need just a tablespoon if tomato paste!

Serves 6

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized chunks
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup slivered almonds, toasted, divided
1/2 tsp. sambal oelek (the recipe called for 1 green serrano chill, seeded and minced)
1/2 cup almond milk or whole milk
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
1 tablespoon garam masala
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
freshly ground black pepper
pinch of saffron threads

1. In a large pot, combine the chicken, butter, raisins, 1/2 cup of the almonds, the chile, milk, tomato paste, yogurt, garam masala, salt, cumin, turmeric, cayenne, pepper and saffron. Stir well to combine the ingredients.

2. Reduce the heat to medium-low and set the lid slightly ajar. Cook for 30 minutes, or until the sauce is thickened and the chicken is tender. Serve each portion over rice, garnished with about 1 tablespoon of the remaining almonds.

Stress Saver: If your chicken is frozen, partially thaw it in the microwave. It will be easier to cut into chunks than if it were raw. The cooking time will be about the same.

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3 thoughts on “Chicken with Raisins and Almonds (Butter Chicken)

  1. I think the first version of a dish that you have is often your favourite and you’re unlikely to try variations. Especially if you don’t go out and eat often, as is my situation. Every Indian restaurant that I’ve really liked (usually mom and pop places) seems to have eventually gone out of business … maybe cause they didn’t cut corners and their profit margins ended up being non-existent. Or maybe they were just bad business people.

    The butter chicken that I make starts with leftover skinless and boneless tandoori chicken thighs that I cut up and add to the ‘sauce’ cause I like a pretty saucy version. It also has no raisins or almonds but I think it’s pretty good. I should really write it up one day. 🙂

    You reminded me that it’s been ages since I made any Indian food.

    http://a-boleyn.livejournal.com/tag/indian

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