Earlier this year, we featured a wildly popular Instant Pot Butter Chicken recipe to rave reviews—clearly, there was an appetite for a hearty, flavorful, warm-you-from-within curry. As the moniker implies, butter chicken or murgh makhani gets its creaminess from a finishing touch of butter (and sometimes heavy cream as well), mellowing out all of the dish's wonderful, fragrant spices.
When I came across the Paneer and Cauliflower Makhani from Chef Floyd Cardoz's fun and colorful Bombay Bread Bar here in New York, I stopped dead in my tracks: Here are all the hallmarks of butter chicken—without the chicken! Instead, Chef Cardoz combines paneer, a type of fresh farmers' cheese, and roasted cauliflower in a rich and satisfying spiced makhani that will have you diving in again and again with all the flatbreads you can get your hands on.
"The Paneer & Cauliflower Makhani is super popular. We have to make paneer daily so we don't run out," explains the chef, who splits his time between New York and his native India. "The curry itself is very traditional, and this makhani was a way to use a very seasonal ingredient with paneer. My spin is using cauliflower, almost imitating a cauliflower Mornay," referring to the classic French sauce that takes a creamy béchamel base and turns it up a notch with the addition of cheese. In this case, that "cheese" is paneer, and the dairy components are the cream and butter. The Serrano chili, ginger, and cilantro keep the curry from feeling too heavy.
I had a chance to chat with the esteemed chef about Bombay Bread Bar, his love letter to Bombay's street food and culture, as well his favorite ways to wind down after a long day. A portion of our interview below:
HANA ASBRINK: What was your vision for Bombay Bread Bar?
CHEF FLOYD CARDOZ: I wanted to create a restaurant and environment where people can really celebrate the food and culture of India in a fun way. I couldn't find an Indian restaurant in New York doing this. The menu features a lot of plays and twists on the dishes I grew up on in Bombay and Goa, and the design is inspired by my memories of India mixed with modern culture—casual, vibrant, and lively. The Bombay Bread Bar is meant to be a place where people can get together and share great food, enjoy some drinks, and ultimately have fun.
HA: Indian food is famous for spotlighting amazing, vegetable-forward dishes. What are some easy ways for a home cook to showcase their vegetables in bright, healthful ways?
FC: I love combining vegetables with lentils. They are rich in protein and inexpensive, and help to add texture and give a fuller flavor to dishes. One of my favorite recipes in my cookbook, Flavorwalla, is the Brussels Sprouts Hash, which combines Brussels sprouts with lentils.
HA: As a busy chef and family man, I'd love to know the ways you keep balance in your life. What do you do to decompress after a long shift? Where can we find you on your days off and how do you eat when you're off-duty?
FC: I love to watch new and old episodes of the Big Bang Theory to decompress after a long shift. Before I became a chef, I studied biochemistry, so it reminds me of that time in my life. I also love Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern.
My days off are mostly spent in my garden, growing all kinds of vegetables, plants, and flowers. I find gardening very relaxing; it helps me reach a place of zen.
I try very hard to eat a balanced diet that incorporates all of the food groups into each meal, and not just load up on one. I think it's really important to start the day with a healthy breakfast, and I try to stay away from heavy, fried starches.
- 3 quarts fresh tomatoes
- 1 serrano chilli
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon cumin powder
- 1 tablespoon turmeric powder
- 1 tablespoon chili powder (he uses Kashmiri chilies)
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/3 cup honey
- 2 cups water, plus more according to preference
- 1 dash salt, plus more to taste
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 1 piece 2-inch ginger knob, cut in 1/2-inch long julienne strips
- 1/4 cup toasted fenugreek leaves, crushed
- 4 cups roasted cauliflower florets
- 3 cups soft paneer, cut into cubes
- 2 handfuls cilantro, to stir in and for garnish
- 8 servings steamed long grain basmati rice
- 8 servings Indian flatbread like naan
What's your favorite way to enjoy curry? Let us know below!