Gallery: How To Make Chicken Tikka Makhani (Butter Chicken) with Floyd Cardoz at the New York Culinary Experience

Chef Floyd Cardoz
Chef Floyd Cardoz

Floyd Cardoz, formerly of the much beloved Tabla and currently of North End Grill, isn't just an Indian chef, but he makes some damn fine Indian food. At the New York Culinary Experience, he showed how easy it can be to cook Indian at home.

Making the marinade
Making the marinade

The chicken gets marinaded in yogurt with spices and aromatics. Here, chef Cardoz blends chilies, garlic, ginger, lime juice, and neutral oil to make a smooth paste. He salts his chicken for 15 minutes before adding the marinade, but you can also add salt during this step.

Making the marinade
Making the marinade

He whisks the paste into yogurt and adds three spices: paprika, garam masala (a warm, punchy blend of black pepper, green cardamom, mace, cloves, and cinnamon), and cayenne pepper.

Making the marinade
Making the marinade

The chicken gets mixed in and refrigerated for four to six hours, or overnight. Chef Cardoz insisted on using chicken thighs in this recipe: "they just have more flavor."

On the grill
On the grill

Although chicken tikka is traditionally cooked in a tandoor oven, it does pretty well on the grill. You can also cook it under a broiler, as our recipe instructs.

On the grill
On the grill

The chicken should be cooked until just done. The yogurt develops a charred, smoky crust but the interior stays plenty juicy.

Chicken tikka
Chicken tikka

And there you have it: chicken tikka. Add a squirt of lime juice and a salad for an easy summer grill session. But it doesn't take much work to make the buttery tomato gravy.

Making the gravy
Making the gravy

Whole tomatoes (chef Cardoz is insistent on Muir Glen roasted tomatoes for their superior flavor; "No, I don't get paid to say that."), onion, butter, chili, garlic, ginger, and cinnamon stew together in a pot.

Making the gravy
Making the gravy

The mixture bubbles away for about half an hour at a hard simmer to concentrate the flavors.

Adding cream
Adding cream

Butter chicken wouldn't be butter chicken without a big lump of butter and a slurp of cream. It's rich, but not overkill. You can also add the cream after the sauce reduces to preserve its fresh dairy flavor.

Puréeing the sauce
Puréeing the sauce

After the gravy has reduced and everything is tender, the sauce gets puréed until velvety smooth.

Pepper and honey
Pepper and honey

Black pepper, some honey, and more salt add complexity and punch to the sauce.

Fenugreek
Fenugreek

The secret to this dish, if there is one, is the fenugreek. It's a maple sweet, slightly bitter herb that's common in the Indian pantry. It gives the sauce a floral, deep flavor and a complex sweetness. Head to your Indian grocery and pick up some dried leaves (not the seeds; those are used for other applications). Your sauce won't be the same without it.

The fenugreek leaves are toasted in a dry pan until aromatic and darker in color.

Fenugreek
Fenugreek

They're then crushed into a powder and added to the sauce.

Chicken, meet sauce
Chicken, meet sauce

When the sauce is ready, add the chicken whole or in bite-sized pieces.

The dish
The dish

And there you have it: slightly sweet, gorgeously spiced, luxurious butter chicken, only slightly more involved than pasta with red sauce.