Initially, this dish was only supposed to be what’s known as Butter Chicken. Or maybe Better Butter Chicken…
The “Bigger” part came in as a bit of an accident… but one of the good kind, though!
The thing is, I kind of went a little overboard with the sauce. Halfway through making the stew, I realized I had way too much of it… something had to be done! I mean, I like me a good amount of sauce in my stews, but there’s limits. After all, it wasn’t soup I was hungry for.
I quickly rummaged through my fridge, in search of a good potential addition. Lucky for me, I always keep a few pounds of spinach on hand, and I’d just purchased a bunch of beautiful, fresh button mushrooms. That would be just PERFECT.
In fact, I was instantly thrilled that I’d made a little too much sauce. I knew right then and there that those two very simple additions would elevate this classic dish from great to grand. And that, they did!
In fact, I think I’ll never be having classic Butter Chicken ever again. From now on, it’ll always be Bigger Better Butter Chicken for this foodie!
Ideally and if time permits, you want to marinate the chicken overnight in a mixture of lemon juice, garlic, salt and garam masala. If you can’t do overnight, try and give it at least a couple of hours. The lemon juice will start to denature the protein in the meat, making that chicken so much juicier and tender, while the salt will really get into the meat, rendering it so much tastier.
When you are ready to cook your chicken, rinse it under cold running water and then pat it real dry.
Melt the ghee in a large skillet set over medium-high heat then add the pieces of chicken in a single layer, being mindful not to overcrowd the pan, (you will probably have to work in batches) and cook the meat until nice and golden all around, about 5-6 minutes total;
Remove the cooked pieces of chicken to a bowl to catch the juices.
Return the skillet to the heat source, lower the heat to medium and add the onion, garlic and ginger. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the vegetables soften get a nice golden coloration.
Add the chicken and its juices back to the skillet then throw in the garam masala, ras el hanout, ground cinnamon, chipotle powder and white pepper.
Mix until the pieces of chicken are well coated.
Now stir in the crushed tomatoes, date paste and water and let that simmer slowly for about 25 minutes, until the sauce becomes thick and smooth.
In a large glass measuring cup, mix the coconut milk and sunflower seed butter together; whisk vigorously until they are well combined, then add that to the chicken stew; stir well.
Bring back to a simmer and continue cooking for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, brown the mushrooms in a separate skillet, then throw them into the stew…
…along with the mountain of spinach.
Alright, I’ll admit: that may be quite the amount to add in one go. You could very well do this in 2 or 3 batches, if you preferred…
It’ll only make it that much easier to stir them in! But hey, I like me a good challenge, so I went ahead and threw the whole bunch in at once.
Stir delicately until the spinach is completely incorporated and wilted.
As you can see, what was once a huge pile of green leaves has now reduced quite considerably. To see spinach shrink like that will simply never cease to amaze me…
And there you have it: Butter Chicken, kicked up a serious notch!
I’m telling you, the spinach and mushrooms do SO MUCH for this dish, it’s not even funny. Makes you wonder why they’re not part of the original dish. Perhaps because those two ingredients aren’t really common in Indian Cuisine? Yeah… that would make sense.
But hey, that doesn’t mean adding them is strictly prohibited.
In fact, I’d even say that it should be strongly encouraged!