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Saturday, September 22, 2012

tandoori-style chicken breasts

obviously, not actual "tandoor" chicken, because I don't have a tandoor oven to cook it in. most authentic flavor comes from grilling, but roasting works as well.










tandoori chicken breasts

adapted from Savoring India by Julie Sahni






  • 3-4 split chicken breasts (with skin and bone)
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (regular or Greek)
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 large or 2 small lemons)
  • 2 large cloves garlic, grated
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon (a pinch) ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
  • 1 small white onion, sliced into medium-thick half-moons
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • fresh cilantro sprigs and lemon wedges to garnish

  • classic tandoori chicken is usually skinless, but since chicken skin is one of my favorite culinary delights (when cooked properly -- crisp and brown), I'm experimented with leaving the skin on this tandoori style chicken. since I make my own yogurt, I usually keep several different thicknesses on hand. thick Greek yogurt is wonderful with fruit for breakfast, or atop baked potatoes, but I find thinner yogurt is quite useful, too. I made this marinade with un-strained, plain yogurt, and even added a little additional whey (strained from the Greek yogurt) to help it penetrate the chicken better, and for flavor. the smoked Spanish paprika gives the finishes dish a little more "grilled" flavor, especially helpful if you roast (rather than grill) the chicken, but you can substitute regular paprika.

    rinse chicken breasts and pat dry with paper towels. mix the yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, ginger (both are very easily grated on a microplane, which every cook should own for all kinds of kitchen purposes!), cumin, ground coriander, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, cardamom, cloves and black pepper. add salt to taste. place the chicken breasts in a non-reactive baking pan, plastic food storage container or a large ziplock bag. pour the yogurt mixture over the chicken and rub it in well. cover (if using a pan) or seal (if using a ziplock bag or plastic storage container) and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, or overnight.

    at least 30 minutes before cooking, remove chicken from refrigerator, and preheat the oven to 400 °F. lightly oil a baking/roasting pan (you can use the same pan in which you marinated the chicken; just wash and dry it first), and arrange the chicken breasts, skin up, evenly spaced in the pan. spoon any remaining marinade over them. toss the sliced white onion with the oil in a small bowl and strew the sliced onions over the chicken breasts. place the pan in the oven and cook for 35 to 50 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken breasts. test for doneness by inserting an instant-read meat thermometer into the thickest part of the meat; they're ready when the temperature registers 165 °F to 180 °F (another way to check: look for the juices run clear when pierced with a knife near the bone).

    *note: you can also roast an entire chicken this way -- just prepare the marinade in a similar way. using a small paring knife, cut slits in the thickest parts of the breast, thighs and tops of the legs with a stabbing motion, to help the marinade absorb. place the whole chicken in a roasting dish and arrange the onion slices around, placing a few inside the chicken cavity.

    garnish with fresh cilantro and wedges of lemon. serve with freshly cooked basmati rice and a fresh cilantro-coconut chutney and/or raita (both recipes below). serves 4.

    cilantro-coconut chutney
    • 1 bunch fresh cilantro (minus a bit used to garnish the chicken and/or make raita), stemmed and roughly chopped
    • 1 fresh jalapeno or serrano chile, stemmed, seeds and membranes removed, and minced
    • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
    • 4 tablespoons shredded coconut (unsweetened)
    • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
    • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
    • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
    • 1/2 teaspoon water, if needed
    • pinch of salt, to taste
    • 1/2 teaspoon black mustard seed (sometimes called brown mustard seed)
    in a food processor or with a mortar and pestle, grind the cilantro leaves, chile, ginger, coconut, sugar, lemon juice and oil (add water if needed to help process to a paste). when processed, add salt to taste. toast the mustard seeds in a pan over medium-high heat until they pop and turn grey, and stir into the chutney. refrigerate until time to serve.

    raita
    • 1 cup plain yogurt (regular or Greek)
    • 1/2 medium-large cucumber, peeled, seeded and grated
    • 1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
    • 5-6 cherry or grape tomatoes, diced
    • 2 green onions, minced
    • 2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
    • 1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
    • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    • 1-2 teaspoons of water or milk to thin sauce (if using Greek yogurt
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
    • 1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional)
    • 1 teaspoon black mustard seed (sometimes called brown mustard seed
    • 1/4 teaspoon garam masala
    combine the yogurt, grated cucumber, carrots, tomatoes, green onion, cilantro, cumin, turmeric, black pepper, cayenne pepper, water or milk (if needed to thin the sauce a bit), salt, and sugar (if needed to balance flavor). toast the mustard seeds lightly in a pan over medium-high heat until they pop and turn grey (they add a wonderful toasty flavor), and stir into the raita. cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, taste for seasoning, and top with a pinch of garam masala to serve.

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