Almond butter…the reason for this recipe…so simple and so good…and really…why not make your own. It takes hardly any time, and you can control the salt and what kind of oil and how much to add! If you haven’t done this before…do it. It is an interesting exercise to see what flavor you get…and how much salt is necessary for your tastes…and there are hundreds of recipes that involve some kind of nut butter.
Start with almonds, throw them into the food processor and grind away. It will be very loud! You might have to yell to hear yourself think!
Continue to grind, and it will begin to look mealy. If you like your nut butter chunky…you have a couple of options. You could grind a completely smooth batch, and then add some roughly chopped almonds, or you can grind a portion of the nuts to the consistency you want and then add whole nuts for a few more pulses of the blade.
You will need to add oil at some point, otherwise, you will have more of a nut paste. Remember also, that the type of oil you use will have an impact on the flavor as well…so I would stay away from very strongly flavored oils, unless your goal is to make a garlic almond butter to use in savory dishes…just don’t plan on making any nut butter and jelly sandwiches. And, salt really helps bring out the flavor of any nut butter and is overly present in many commercial varieties.
On to the task at hand. Chicken Makhani!
If I had known that this was this easy to make…I would have saved many a take-out night when we lived in Boston. Makhani was one of the first Indian dishes that I explored…and turns out…I loved it. And who wouldn’t…the description on almost any Indian restaurant’s menu of ‘butter chicken‘ is pretty irresistible. I recognize, that this is not a completely authentic makhani recipe…but the basic flavor profile is there. I swapped out typically used cashews for almonds and yogurt for milk. Perhaps I’ve misnamed…but it is what my mouth thought of!
1 Tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
4 (6 oz / 170 g) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
Salt and pepper to taste
1.5 tablespoons garam masala seasoning
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, cut in half pole to pole
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
⅓ cup almond butter
⅓ cup milk
½ to ¾ cup chicken broth or water, more as needed
1 cup frozen peas
Cook the chicken. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Heat 1 teaspoon (5 ml) olive oil a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. If needed, cook the chicken in two batches to avoid crowding the pan. Set aside on clean plate and keep warm.
Prepare spice blend. Stir garam masala, ginger, cinnamon, and pepper together in a small bowl. Set aside.
Melt the butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion (I sliced half the onion in strips and left the other half whole) and cook gently for several minutes to infuse the butter with onion flavor. Keep the heat low to avoid burning the butter; a little color is fine.
Add the spice blend and garlic and cook for 1 minute or till fragrant, stirring constantly.
Add the tomato sauce, stir well, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer.
Whisk in almond butter and milk until thoroughly combined with tomato sauce. The almond butter is thick so it takes a while to make a smooth sauce. Return to simmer.
Add broth or water (I used water) to sauce to reach desired consistency; return to simmer. Add more broth (or water) as needed to thin sauce as desired.
Remove onion (the half or both halves if you followed the recipe exactly) from sauce and discard. Stir frozen peas into sauce. Transfer chicken to sauce. Simmer gently for a few minutes until peas and chicken are heated through.
Serve chicken and sauce over rice. Garnish with fresh cilantro and a few sliced almonds.
This was great on the table that night…and even better as leftovers the next few days. I would make one change when making this again…as the flavors were a little heavy on the cinnamon. Woody remarked that our kitchen smelled like a CinnaBon stand when I reheated it the following night. It is a definite keeper, as a recipe and a method!