I don't know that much about Indian food, and I know even less about Indian cooking. Once I tried to make naan, and it came out hard as a rock. (Incidentally, the recipe called for something like 1/4 cup of yeast. It didn't help the bread rise at all, as far as I could tell.) One recipe that turns out every time for me, though, is this one for Indian butter chicken. I have no idea how authentic it is; I can't even remember where I got the recipe, although I've doctored it up a bit myself. It uses fairly basic ingredients and isn't too time-consuming, although I wouldn't recommend it for busy week nights. I think it tastes best over rice, with some naan (store-bought, in my case) on the side. (I found some naan at the Asian Market on the corner of Calhoun and Pontiac, $2.50 for 6 big pieces. It was, ironically, made in Canada.)
The recipe calls for fresh chicken breast, but you could probably use pre-cooked chicken, if you add it at the very end with the butter. I've never actually tried it that way, though. This time I used dark thigh meat, which just wasn't as good as the white meat--it was almost too rich. As far as the other ingredients, fresh ginger keeps for a long time if you freeze it; I bought mine for $2 a pound at one of the Asian markets. Garam masala is a blend of various spices used frequently in Indian cooking. There are lots of recipes online if you want to make your own garam masala, but since most of them call for a lot of unusual spices, I usually just buy it pre-made. McCormick's Gourmet Collection is probably the best deal you can find at Meijer, but next time I'm going to try one of the Asian stores.
Indian Butter Chicken
Time: 50-60 minutes
1 onion, chopped
2 T. grated or minced fresh ginger
1 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
1 T. vegetable oil
3 tsp. garam masala
1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste, minus 2 T. (freeze the extra for those annoying recipes that only call for 1 or 2 T.)
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup half-and-half (whole milk works too)
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small pieces (1/2" or smaller)
1/2 tsp. coarse-ground black pepper
1/4 cup butter
hot cooked rice and/or naan
lime wedges (optional)
In a large, deep pot, combine onion, ginger, jalapeno, and oil. Stir often over high heat until onion is browned (3-5 minutes). Remove from heat; stir in garam masala.
Scrape mixture into blender; add paste and broth. Blend until smooth. (Or add paste and broth to aromatics in pot and use a stick/immersion blender to combine.) Return mixture to pot, add cream, and bring to a gentle boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, until reduced to 3 cups (5-7 minutes).
Mix chicken with pepper and sprinkle lightly with salt. Melt 1 T. butter over high heat in a separate pan; add chicken and cook until it is no longer pink on the surface. Add chicken to sauce and simmer over medium heat, stirring often, until chicken is cooked through (3-4 minutes). Cut remaining 3 T. butter into chunks and stir into sauce until melted.
Serve over rice and/or with naan. Squeeze with lime juice, if desired.