Butter Chicken With Love

I followed the NY Times Butter Chicken recipe by Tom Sifton, which can be found here. I tried not to deviate from the recipe too much. Making it was a pleasure from start to finish. The strong and subtle aromas wafting out of the kitchen were reward in themselves. The taste was what I expected but much more. Homemade butter chicken can have noticeably more complex flavours than take out if you cook with patience and love.

We are so rushed in our daily lives. For many of us, cooking has become a chore that we try to hurry through. When you cook in the moment the process of cooking becomes a pleasure and the final result will show that you’ve taken your time. It isn’t a hyperbole to say that the secret ingredient in this dish is love.

I like the layout of the recipe itself as well. The side by side ingredients and steps make it easier to follow. I also really appreciate that the ingredients are listed in order of appearance, and not in order of grocery category (i.e. dairy, produce, meat etc).

A note on chicken. Probably the most important step in this recipe is cutting the chicken into nice looking, even sized cubes…or something approximating a cube. Doing this may take a little longer than you’re prepared to invest  but it will pay off.

Obviously, start with fresh ingredients. There’s a crucial step between grocery store and cooking that needs attention: your fridge. Keeping a clean and well organized fridge keeps your food fresher for longer. Foods stored in the fridge take on each others smells. If your fridge smells bad, everything in it will smell bad if you really pay attention.


Which brings me to another crucial point: smell. Smell your garlic. Slow down and really get in there. Smell it with the peel on, smell it with the peel off. Smell everything. Get intimately acquainted with your food. When you treat the ingredients patiently and with high regard, they will shine in the final dish.

I try to always start with whole spices. The smell of freshly ground whole spices is a totally different world from even the freshest pre-ground spices. If you don’t believe me, crush some cumin or coriander and smell. They have so much more dimension and depth.


I used a marble mortar and pestle. Cumin is particularly hard to crush and I have to admit I lost my patience a little bit with this step. Still, I resisted the temptation to pull out my magic bullet and pulverize these seeds into oblivion because I knew that not only would it change the flavour of the cumin, it would also show disregard for the process.


It was worth it, if only for these pictures alone. There’s something timeless and universal about crushing spices. The smell, of course, is transcendent but its also the connection with the cooking. The feeling that you’re doing something that human hands across the world have done for probably millennia.


Take your time cutting the onion, even if it stings your eyes. My method is to cut in half, then cut evenly spaces lines into each half, rotate 90 degrees and repeat.  Be mindful and totally in tune with your knife blade, cutting precise and even lines. Use your senses. Listen to the subtle sounds of knife through onion.


I think the recipe called for fresh but this was all I had. I crushed two of them by hand and set aside. I didn’t wash my hands and then I touched my face. Be careful.


Unlike the recipe calls for, I added the cumin seeds to the ghee first as is common in many Indian recipes (I think they call it blooming the spices.) I heated them until they started lightly popping, and then I added the diced onion. The smell was…like nothing else I’ve ever smelled in my kitchen before.

You can serve with plain basmati or add a little bit of subtle flavour, like a tsp of turmeric and the seeds of two cardamom pods. The cardamom seeds should be shiny and very dark, not grey or ashen looking. For the basmati, add 1 cup of rice and 2.5 cups of water to a pan along with a sprinkle of salt and any flavourings you’re adding. Stir lightly. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes on medium-low until the water level has reached the rice. Cover and continue cooking for 5 minutes, then turn the heat off and leave undisturbed until ready to serve. Don’t uncover.

I used ghee and almond oil to cook the chicken. I had frozen homemade chicken stock that I added to deglaze. I cooked the chicken in two batches, adding the finishes first batch to the pot of sauce and then when the second batch was ready I poured the contents of the sauce pot back into the cast iron skillet. I simmered lightly for another 5 or 10 minutes.




Truffle & Thyme Pâté

P1120648Pâté. A small word with many accents and assumptions. I think just the word makes most people think of something fussy. Pâté is not a fancy word in Romania. In fact, pâté is considered to be a quite rustic food. This is the case throughout Europe, where pâté finds it’s origins in humble peasants’ ingenuity and creativity. In North America pâté finds it’s origins in Europe. Probably has something to do with all the pomp.

If you can believe it, I didn’t realize pâté was fancy until well into my 20s. It was such a common feature on my family’s breakfast table that it never occurred to me. it was so common, in fact, that we took it camping. Earlier in our relationship Bogdan and I would go camping every summer with a big group of friends. Naturally, I packed pâté for an easy breakfast (obvious choice). You can imagine the reactions. That’s when I realized pâté was fancy. It was on the same camping trip that I also brought taramosalata, a Greek fish roe spread that’s usually described on the jar as “Greek style caviar spread”. I don’t think our friends will ever forget the summer we brought pâté and caviar camping.


For the sake of accuracy, I think what we were eating when I was growing up was not actually pâté in the French sense but liverwurst in the much less fancy Eastern European sense. In any case, in Romanian we called it pateu so I always thought pâté was nbd. I don’t think the distinction has anything to do with ingredients. French pâté is often made from chicken or goose liver, but it isn’t exclusively so. Likewise, central and eastern European pâtés can be made from a variety of ingredients from poultry liver to pork, beef, and even seafood.

P1120625_Fotor pate

So, the point I was going to make is this: if you want to buy pâté in the French sense in stores, it usually has a high price tag to match the fancy assumptions. Cast those assumptions aside because pâté is not only not fancy, but it’s so easy to make and will cost very little. It’s as easy as whizzing up some cooked liver and aromatics in a food processor. The recipe is adapted from one in  The Food of the World by Murdoch Publishing. I added truffle oil and upped the thyme.

I really recommend making it ahead and not trying it until it’s been refrigerated. Warm pâté is pretty unappetizing. I sealed it with a layer of clarified butter so it keeps longer. The flavours continue to develop and are at their peak about 24 hours after. This pâté keeps in the fridge for about a week but you’ll know it’s past its prime if it begins to taste slightly bitter. As for serving, pictured here is thinly sliced and toasted ciabatta loaf.




1 lb / 500 grams chicken livers
80 ml / 1/3 cup brandy
1 whole onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
3 oz / 90 grams unsalted butter
2 TBSP chopped thyme
60 ml / 1/4 cup whipping cream
1.5 TBSP truffle infused olive oil
Salt to taste (about 1 tsp for me)

2 oz / 60 grams melted clarified butter (to seal)



Wash and trim chicken livers. Put in a bowl with the brandy and allow to marinade in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
When the liver is finished marinading, melt butter in a pan over low heat.
Add onion and garlic and sauté until onion is transparent (about 3-5 minutes).
Increase heat to medium-high and add livers and thyme. Sauté until they change colour to brown and there’s no more pink or red in their centers (you can break them apart to see).
Pour contents of pan in a food processor and add cream, truffle oil, and salt.
Blend until very smooth.
Pour the pâté into a storage container (I used glass tupperware) and smooth down as flat as you can with a spatula. Pour clarified butter over the pâté, cover and refrigerate.




Pressure Cooker Ancho Chicken

This is the easiest and most delicious way I’ve made chicken breast EVER! It takes about 30 minutes start to finish and you can use the resulting chicken to make these beautiful tacos or any one of a number of delicious recipes. Each serving of chicken is also under 100 calories with 13 grams of protein!

DSC_0069 (10)

….or anything else you can think of like nachos, burritos, taco bowls, served over rice etc etc.


Here’s the super easy recipe.

pressure cooker ancho chicken


Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 8

Serving Size: 4oz/115 grams

Calories per serving: 94

Fat per serving: 3

pressure cooker ancho chicken


  • 1lb/450 grams boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 1 large size can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 TBSP olive oil or ghee
  • 1 tsp ancho chili pepper
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • Salt to taste
  • Cilantro for garnish (optional)


  1. Sauté onion in 1 TBSP of oil on the "sauté" setting
  2. Add all other ingredients to the instant pot except cilantro
  3. Seal and cook on manual mode for 10 minutes (may take 5 minutes to seal)
  4. Allow the pressure to come down on its own then remove lid
  5. Chicken is cooked when it shreds easily
  6. Taste and adjust salt if necessary
  7. Serve as you like


See my review on the instant pot electric pressure cooker [here/http://www.cristinaskitchen.com/the-best-pressure-cooker/]