Chukar is native to India and a fitting choice for this classic Indian recipe.
Alectoris Chukar are endemic to those big mountains that hem India’s northern border. Chukar have become a welcomed wild bird icon of the American west and it seems fitting to adapt this northern Indian classic for use with a bird I have come to love. If you’re familiar, butter chicken stands on its own merits as a hearty, warming dish, but with a brace of plump, nicely-brined chukar meat, this version will exceed your expectations by a wild margin.
Disclaimer: This is one of those “one more ridge” recipes. The staged preparation can make it feel a little arduous. However, I’m willing to guarantee that it’s worth the effort, particularly if you double the batch with the intention of saving a healthy portion for leftovers that make for an easy midweek meal or a warm welcome after a cold trudge in canyon country.
Chukar Murgh Makhani (Butter Chukar)
- 4-5 chukar
- 1 (14 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 onion chopped
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ½ cup plain yogurt
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp ghee (or 1 tbs butter + 1 tbs oil)
- 6 cloves garlic chopped
- 2 tbsp ginger grated
- 4 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 3 tsp chili powder
- Salt to taste
- In a bowl, combine the cubed breast meat and legs of 4-5 chukar along with 1/2 cup yogurt, 2 cloves chopped garlic, 1 tbsp finely grated ginger, 2 tbsp garam masala, 1 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp chili powder and a healthy pinch of kosher salt. Refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour to overnight.
- Heat oil to sizzling in a large pot, then add the marinated meat in batches, making sure not to crowd the pan. Cook until lightly browned on the outside and set aside.
- Add butter to the pan. Sweat the onions for 5 to 10 minutes. Once they’re translucent and starting to brown, stir in the remaining garlic and ginger. Then, a minute or two later, add the remaining coriander, cumin, chili powder, garam masala, and tomatoes. Cook uncovered for 10-15 minutes.
- Turn off the heat. Add 1 cup of cream and, using an immersion or a countertop blender, puree the sauce. Return the sauce to the pan along with the chukar and let it simmer until the meat is sufficiently cooked.
- Finish with chopped cilantro and your choice or rice, cooked cauliflower, or naan.
Based in Oregon, Tristan Henry is an avid hunter, enjoys wild things, protecting wild places, and eating wild food.