Raghavan Iyer, the author of 660 Curries, translates this dish from “Murgh Makhani“ to “Grilled Cornish Game Hens with a Tomato-Fenugreek Sauce”, but I think it is also Butter Chicken, which is Murgh (‘chicken’) Makhani (‘with butter’). He suggests using Cornish hens instead of chicken because they more closely resemble the size and flavor of the chicken in India. I, unfortunately, went to the only grocery store without Cornish hens, so I bought a package of thigh and drumstick pieces. You could also use packages of leg pieces (thigh and drumstick together). He suggests cutting up the chicken AFTER grilling it to hold in the juices and flavors.
This chicken dish was worth all of the work. It really was. I ate a few forkfuls and am letting it cool as I type this post. I have learned that this dish is also worth burning your tongue various times haha.
I opted to grill the chicken instead of baking it just to practice my grilling skills, which are um below average. For some reason, I cannot get my charcoal hot enough. So, what did I do? I turned to Youtube for help on how to properly fire up a charcoal grill, and it worked (almost) perfectly. I managed to get the charcoal hot enough to cook three out of five of the chicken pieces. Two of them were 95% cooked (I don’t know how I figure out these percentages. Just bear with me.).
TASTE: The marinade on the chicken was very fragrant because of the balti masala and other ingredients. It smelled divine and very new to me. I ate a piece of the chicken before adding the sauce, and it was incredible. It was so great, that I was hesitant to add the sauce to all of the chicken just in case I didn’t like the sauce. Fortunately, both the sauce and chicken complement each other perfectly. The sauce smells of tomato, butter, and spices. I can’t describe the taste very well. It is a comforting dish, and as I stated already, it was totally worth all of the work. I think I’m going to have to make more sauce because it yielded enough only to coat the chicken.
Lastly, I was so focused on making this dish that I forgot about the side dishes like rice, vegetables, and naan. I wanted to make naan but ran out of time. I quickly put together some turmeric rice (forgot to add peas) before the sun completely went down for photos. If I make naan or some other type of Indian bread tomorrow, I will post it then (I’ve blogged about naan before, but I want to try another recipe for fluffier bread) to go along with yummy leftovers of this chicken dish.
Now that I have prepared balti masala and ginger-garlic paste, I can throw this together much more quickly in the near future. I really hope you make this dish. Just break down the process. Make the paste, balti masala, and marinade the chicken on one day, and grill or bake the chicken the next day. Don’t forget to make rice and naan!
2 Cornish game hens (about 1 1/2 lbs. each), skin removed, cut in half lengthwise (I used chicken thighs and legs)
1/3 cup plain yogurt (I used Greek yogurt for its thicker nature)
1 1/2 Tbsp ginger/garlic paste
2 tsp Balti masala
2 tsp ground Kashmiri chiles; or 1/2/ tsp cayenne (ground red pepper) mixed with 1 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
1 1/4 tsp coarse kosher or sea salt
Vegetable cooking spray (I never used this)
2 Tbsp Ghee or butter (I bought ghee from the Indian store b/c it was there, but it’s not hard to make)
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup chopped fresh or frozen kasoori methi or fenugreek leaves (thawed, if frozen); or 2 Tbsp dried fenugreek leaves, soaked in a bowl of water for 15 mins and skimmed off before use
1/2 tsp cayenne (ground red pepper)
1/2 cup half-and-half
Using a sharp knife, make four slits in each hen or chicken pieces: two into the breast meat, one in the outer thigh meat, and one in the inner thigh meat. Place the hens or chickens in a biaking dish, meat side up.
Combine the yogurt, ginger-garlic paste, balti masala, Kashmiri chiles, and salt in a small bowl, and whisk to blend. Smear the hen or chicken halves with this orange-red marinade, making sure to stuff some of it into the slits. Refrigerate, covered for at least 1 hour or as long as overnigh, to allow the flavors to permeate the meat.
Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to high, or preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.
GRILL: spray the grill grate with cooking spray (I forgot to do this, and it worked out fine). Place the hens or chicken pieces, meat side down, on the grate. (Optional: Reserve any marinade for basting the meat.) Cover, and grill the meat, basting them occasionally with the remaining marinade and turning them over halfway through, until the meat in the thickest parts is no longer pink inside and the juices run clear, 30 to 40 minutes (or 60 minutes for the bigger pieces of meat, if you heat up your grill incorrectly like me hehe). Transfer the meat to a serving platter, and cover them with foil to keep them warm while you quickly make the sauce. (I SUGGEST MAKING THE SAUCE TOWARD THE END OF THE GRILLING TIME INSTEAD OF AFTER)
OVEN: Place a rack in a roasting pan, and spray it with cooking spray. Place the hens or chicken pieces, meat side down, on the rack. (Reserve any marinade for basting the meat) Roast, basting them occasionally with the remaining marinade and turning them over halfway through, until the meat in the thickest parts is no longer pink inside, and the juices run clear, about 45 minutes. Transfer the meat to a serving platter, and cover them with foil to keep them warm while you quickly make the sauce.
SAUCE: To make the sauce, heat the ghee in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the tomato sauce, fenugreek, and cayenne. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, to allow the flavors to meld, 5 to 10 minutes. Then stir in the half-and-half, and continue to simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, to let it warm, 2 to 4 minutes.
To serve the curry, cut the meat into smaller pieces, and toss them with the sauce. (Cut the meat better than I did hah!).
1 3/4 cups water
1 cup Basmati rice
2 Tbsp butter
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp turmeric
1-2 cups frozen peas (forgot to use)
OPTIONAL ADD-INS OR TOPPINGS:
Dried kasoori methi/fenugreek leaves (I used this)
Boil water with salt. Add rice, butter, and turmeric, and cover. Turn heat to med-low, and cook for 20 minutes. Add the frozen peas into the cooked rice; give them a stir. Allow the heat of the rice to cook the peas.