Khoya is thickened milk is used widely in North Indian cooking usually in all kinds of desserts.
Its texture can be similar to ricotta cheese but here in the US, it is available in a 'batti' i.e. hardened brick form which contains only 50% moisture and can, therefore, be grated like cheese. It also keeps longer in the refrigerator than the soft cheese variety.
Which begs the question, what does it do for chicken?
In all it's deliciousness, the chicken is cooked in an onion and tomato gravy and finished with grated khoya for the last few minutes as a finish. The result is a rich chicken gravy and quite unlike the subdued flavor, one gets when finishing with heavy cream.
The khoya doesn't subdue the flavors of the gravy but rather adds a rick milky dimension which is quite lovely. I wouldn't make this every day or we're all likely to turn into rolly-pollies. But this does make a nice change for when the company is over or you want to treat yourself to a fine weekend meal.
Must serve with North Indian bread since rice would be a poor substitute and I'd go as far as to say that rice is a no-can-do!
Indian Style Khoya Chicken
3-4 lbs whole chicken or 6 chicken leg quarters
2 medium yellow onions
2 tbs canned tomato paste
1 can tomato puree
6 oz dense khoya- store-bought (available at Indian-Pakistani grocery stores)
1" fresh ginger root
5 cloves peeled garlic
1 tbs salt
1-1/2 tsp garam masala
1-1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground red chilies (chili powder)
1/4 cup canola oil
Chicken: Skin the chicken, cut and discard excess fat and cut at the joints. Marinate the chicken with half the quantity of salt and ground turmeric. Set aside.
Garlic-ginger paste: Roughly chop the garlic and ginger. Add in a mini-blender capable of making fine pastes along with 2 tbs water and process to a fine paste.
Onions: Peel, cut the woody ends and discard with skin. Roughly dice and set aside.
Khoya: Grate and set aside.
Use a large and deep saute pan, heat the oil on medium heat.
Add the ginger-garlic paste and saute for about 30 seconds till it sizzles and releases its aroma.
Add the onions and on medium-low heat, saute, stirring regularly to prevent sticking to the bottom. Saute for about 10-12 minutes till the onions have softened and are a light golden brown.
Remove to the same food processor used for the garlic ginger paste and process to a paste.
Return the onions paste to the pan and saute for a minute or so. Add 2 tbs water and add the tomato paste. Use the water in the pan to break down the paste and combine.
Add the tomato puree and stir. Add the remaining salt, ground turmeric, red chilly powder, and garam masala. Simmer for a few seconds.
Add the chicken and simmer for a few minutes. Add 1/2 cup water and cover the pan with a lid.
On medium-low heat, cook the chicken till tender for about 40-45 minutes. Stir regularly since the chicken tends to stick to the bottom of the pan due to the rich thick gravy.
Taste and adjust seasonings. Add the grated khoya. Stir the gravy for about 5-10 minutes, breaking down the khoya as much as possible.
Cook's Note: Be advised that unlike cheese or cream the khoya will not disintegrate completely and flecks will be seen through the gravy.
Garnish with chopped cilantro leaves and serve with rotis, paratha, naan or whole wheat pitas in a pinch. Rice is not traditionally eaten with this dish.