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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Chicken Tandoori


A host of winter malaise has settled upon our household which has thrown a wrench into the cooking schedule. Chicken tandoori was appointed for Tuesday night, right when the apogee of illness struck. Good news: if you marinade these chicken thighs longer than the 15 minutes recommended in this Rachael Ray recipe (let's say for, oh, 23 and 3/4 hours longer) they are not ruined.

Chicken Tandoori

8 skinless boneless chicken thighs (about 2 1/2 lbs)
juice of 1 lemon
kosher salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp plain yogurt
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 small red onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
4 tsp tomato paste
2 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 3/4 tsp hot paprika
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

1. Preheat broiler. Make shallow cuts in the chicken thighs with a sharp knife. Toss the chicken with the lemon juice and 1 1/2 tsp salt in a large bowl.

2. Pulse 2 tbsp yogurt, the vegetable oil, onion, garlic, ginger, tomato paste, coriander, cumin, 1 1/2 tsp paprika and 1/2 tsp salt in a food processor to make a paste. Toss the chicken in the mixture and let marinade 15 minutes.

3. Place the chicken on a foil-lined broiler pan. Broil, turning once, until slightly charred and a thermometer inserted in the center registers 165 degrees, 5 to 6 minutes per side.

4. Meanwhile, combine the remaining 1/2 cup yogurt and 1/4 tsp paprika, the cilantro and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Top the chicken with the yogurt sauce and serve with rice, if desired.

The Verdict: Lots of complex flavors that work well together. It's not what I immediately recognize as tandoori chicken, but it's still extremely delicious and has an Indian taste to it.

Probably the best part of this recipe was the lack of red. Often times if you go out for Indian and order chicken tandoori, a plate of bright red chicken comes to the table. I don't have a problem eating the red chicken, I have a problem cooking it. If you visit an Indian grocery and pick up a package of tandoori spice, it comes as a powder. As you mix it, the red becomes a stubborn dye that, until cooked, will turn your kitchen into a crimson craft project. No thanks. I'll take a nice flavor over endless scrubbing any day.

I think the writers of this recipe are about spot on as to eight chicken thighs equaling 2.5 lbs of chicken. However, I found it impossible to find packaged chicken to equal this quantity. So instead of cooking ten thighs (tandoori inundation!), I cooked five instead. The only difference is that fewer thighs end up with more paste on each, making the caramelizing from the broiler more difficult. You may end up, like we did, with less charring and a little more wetness. Tasted just as good. Oh, and in my haste to feed the family, I forgot to top our chicken with the yogurt sauce.

By the way, I didn't use a meat thermometer. Chicken thighs without bones are fairly thin, so under high heat they cook within about 5 to 7 minutes.

This recipe is great the day after the Fall Vegetable Curry recipe. We had lots of leftovers from that meal, so it made a perfect side!

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