Monday, February 2, 2009

Tandoori Chicken

Called Tandoori because it is traditionally cooked in a Tandoor over (that reaches up to 900 degrees F!), this chicken dish is tasty for kids and adults. And it is incredibly healthy—no skin, virtually no fat in marinating and no fat used in cooking. Best of all—this dish, once reserved for take-away Indian restaurants—is easy to make at home.
I found the basis of this recipe in my Cooks Illustrated magazine. I love reading this very scientific food magazine, and was actually a recipe tester for them when I was just out of cooking school-- but the publications DOES tend to over-complicate recipes. So I simplified their method, keeping the best bits of the recipe itself. It is a keeper.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
6 medium garlic cloves, minced fine
1, 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced fine
1 tablespoon garam masala
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons chilli powder
1 cup plain yogurt
Juice from 2 lemons
2 teaspoons sea or kosher salt
3 pounds chicken breasts, drumsticks and thighs (bone-in or boneless), skin removed

1) Heat the oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Once the oil looks as if it is quivering, dump in the garlic and ginger and sauté for a minute, then add in the spices and cook for 30-60 seconds more. Transfer half of the mixture to a bowl and add the yogurt and juice of one lemon. Mix the rest of the spice mixture with the salt and juice of one lemon.

2) Score the chicken pieces and rub the salt/spice/juice mixture into the chicken (especially the shallow cuts—scores). Allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Pre-heat the oven to highest setting about 15 minutes before you are ready to roast the chicken.

3) Line a sided baking tray with parchment paper. Place the chicken pieces into a deep bowl and pour the yogurt mixture over top. Squish around to get all the pieces covered (getting as much pushed into the scores as possible). If you have a flat rack, place this on top of the lined baking tray and arrange the chicken on it. If you do not have a rack, simply lay the pieces onto the lined tray. Roast until a bit charred. For boneless pieces this could be about 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces and the heat of the oven. For bone-in pieces this should take more like 30-40 minutes—just keep a close eye on the chicken, if you are unsure whether it is done or now, cut a piece open—it should be juicy and either white or very, very slightly pink. If the chicken pieces are crowded on to the tray they will steam rather than roast-- still tastes good, but it roasts better when there is plenty of room between the pieces.
Alternatively, grill the chicken on the outside BBQ--- this is the yummiest way!

Serve with lemon or lime wedges and herb chutney. Serves 4-6 (4 bone-in or 6 boneless)

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