Butter Chicken

Recipes by Nancy Johnson; Wine Commentary by Gary Twining

If I had to choose my absolute favorite Indian dish, Butter Chicken would win hands down. For many years, I simply bought jarred sauce (Patak’s makes a good one), but I finally decided to try my hand at making my own. You can serve the Butter Chicken with cooked basmati, jasmine or long-grain rice, but I like using bagged mixed grains, now offered at most grocery stores. It’s not authentic, but it’s very good and healthy to boot!


1 cup whole-milk plain Greek yogurt

1 TBS fresh lemon juice

2 tsp ground turmeric

2 tsp garam masala

1 tsp ground cumin

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 TBS minced ginger root

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast fillets, cut into bite-sized pieces

Butter Chicken Sauce

2 TBS ghee or butter, divided

1 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 TBS minced ginger root

1 tsp garam masala

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 can (15-oz.) tomato sauce

2 TBS tomato paste

1 cup heavy whipping cream

Salt, to taste

2 TBS ghee or butter

3 cups cooked mixed grains, such as quinoa, flax and brown rice.

Make the marinade:  Mix yogurt, lemon juice, turmeric, garam masala, cumin, garlic and ginger in a large glass or ceramic bowl. Add chicken, stirring to coat. Cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours.

In a large skillet, heat 1 TBS ghee or butter over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until softened. Add garlic and ginger. Sauté 1 minute. Add garam masala and cayenne, stirring to coat. Add chicken pieces along with about half the marinade (discard remaining marinade). Sauté chicken on all sides. Stir in tomato sauce and tomato paste. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered, 15-20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Reduce heat to low and stir in heavy whipping cream and butter. Simmer until butter melts. Serve over cooked mixed grains. Serves 4.

Gary: This dish would pair well with a flavorful white or supple red wine. Look for a white Rhone, cool-climate unoaked Chardonnay from Oregon or white Burgundy from Chablis or the Macon, or try some of the mid-country and southern Italian whites such as Vernaccia and Greco di Tufo with their richer body and minerality. For reds, Barbera, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Garnacha/Southern Rhones, Cabernet Franc/Chinon or Pinot Noir are all softer in tannins with firm acidity. You might also consider a flavorful rosé in a still or sparkling version.

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