Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.
Butter chicken, or murgh makhani is a very common Indian dish. If you go to any Indian restaurant in the US, they're bound to be serving butter chicken. It's a curry of sorts, spiced with garam masala and made rich with butter and cream. It gets its color from the combination of spices and tomato paste.
Traditionally, butter chicken does not contain coconut milk. But I love the coconut flavor, so I use a combination of coconut milk and cream. I've always thought it was funny that the dish is called "butter chicken" because every recipe I've seen really doesn't use that much butter. But, don't be fooled - it's still pretty rich (and delicious) with all that cream!
What spices do I need?
Garam masala is the main flavor source in this dish. It's a spice blend that varies in ingredients depending on who made it. It provides a great balance of sweet and savory flavors. I usually make my own with cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, cayenne, and black pepper. But if I were to buy a blend, I'd go with this one. Other spices in this dish include turmeric, cumin, cayenne, cinnamon, paprika, fresh ginger, and fresh garlic. Don't skimp on the spices - they really make this dish pop!
What does pheasant taste like?
Pheasant, along with many other game birds, can vary from having a very mild to strong flavor. Their flavor depends on a lot of different factors - their habitat, what they've been eating, time of year, how long you hang them, etc. I'm not going to lie, the ones I used this time smelled a bit on the funky side. Not like they'd gone bad, but definitely pungent. Traditionally, you marinate the meat in a yogurt sauce to make butter chicken. Coincidentally, this is the perfect remedy to remove any off flavors found in game birds. I'm happy to report that with the combination of the marinade and the heavily spiced sauce, no funk remained.
What cut of meat do I need?
A lot of people tend to breast out their game birds and leave the legs in the field. The legs are more difficult to work with and can be a little on the tougher side. But if you want to use more of your harvest, bringing the legs home is a great way to do it. If you have any meat that got shot up too much to make "pretty" dishes, this is the perfect use for them! Once the breasts and legs are cut up and cooked together, you really can't tell the difference between the two. On the other hand, if you only have breasts (or only legs), this recipe will work either way! Use whatever you have and I'm sure it will still turn out great. So if you're looking for an easy pheasant recipe that's full of flavor, this is the recipe you need to try!
Spicy Indian Butter Pheasant
- 1 ¼ lb pheasant breasts and legs, cut into bite-size chunks (about 1 ½ whole pheasants)
- ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 4 teaspoon garam masala, divided
- 1 onion, grated
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
- 2 tablespoon salted butter, divided
- ⅓ cup tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne
- 1 can coconut milk
- ¾ cup half and half
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped, for garnish
- 3 cups cooked jasmine rice, for serving
- warm naan, for serving
- Combine yogurt, lemon juice, and 2 teaspoon garam masala in a medium bowl. Add in pheasant pieces and toss to combine. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add in 1 tablespoon butter. Add pheasant to pan, working in batches if necessary to avoid crowding the pan. Cook until starting to brown, about 5-10 minutes. It's ok if it doesn't get cooked all the way through, it will finish cooking in the sauce. Remove pheasant to a plate.
- Add in remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Add in onion, garlic, and ginger. Cook until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Add in tomato paste, remaining 2 teaspoon of garam masala, cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, paprika, cayenne, and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add in coconut milk and cream. Stir until tomato paste dissolves in the liquid. Add pheasant back in. Bring to a simmer and cook until pheasant is done and sauce is slightly thickened, about 10-15 minutes.
- Serve over warm jasmine rice and top with fresh cilantro. There will be extra sauce but it's perfect for dipping warm naan in.