Indian food is inviting, comforting and complex. Growing up in the Midwest, we didn't often eat foods with this much flavor. We will always remember our first bite of Indian takeout because we had never tasted anything like it before. Today, we're making our version of a dish we've enjoyed at our favorite restaurants: butter chicken. We start with tender whole chicken thighs and a buttery spiced tomato sauce, then add peas and yogurt to make it our own.
Put the rice in a saucepan with 2 cups of water. Season with salt. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to maintain a bare simmer. Cook for 20 minutes, then allow to rest (or follow the package instructions). Alternatively, use a rice cooker.
Meanwhile, season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Place a large skillet with high sides over medium-high heat. Add the vegetable oil, then place the chicken in the skillet skin-side down and cook until the skin is nice and brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side for another 5 minutes. Reserve to a plate.
Melt the butter in the same skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, jalapeno, garlic and ginger and saute for 3 minutes, scraping to incorporate the fond from the chicken. Stir in the garam masala, paprika, cumin, curry powder, turmeric, sugar and 2 teaspoons black pepper and toast with the onions for a minute. Pour in the tomato puree and heavy cream.
Bring to a simmer, then blend until smooth with an immersion blender. Taste the sauce and season with salt as necessary. Add the browned chicken thighs back to the sauce and simmer until tender and cooked through, 20 to 30 minutes depending on the size of the chicken thighs.
When the chicken is fully cooked through and the sauce has thickened, add the peas. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve over basmati rice and garnish with yogurt and cilantro.