Friday, February 27, 2009

Homemade Tandoori Chicken?!

That’s right, homemade Tandoori chicken. I never thought it possible to recreate the delectable Indian treat at home without the aid of an extremely heavy and costly Tandoor clay oven. These ovens are made to withstand temperatures up to 900 degrees which imbue foods with their characteristic smokiness and charred exterior, two key components of good Tandoori chicken. I have a penchant for Indian food from all regions, or the ones I have had the pleasure to taste for that matter, and have for as long as I can remember. My mother used to wow dinner guests with a spread of countless Indian dishes from samosas and sag paneer to popadums and baingan bharta. Little did our guests realize that she had spent four days solid on the preparation of ingredients, sauces, spices, and condiments. I discovered a method for making Tandoori chicken at home from a recent issue of Cooks Illustrated. My brother and his girlfriend gave me a two-year subscription as a gift this past Christmas and I have just begun to get into it. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I rarely cook directly from recipes and mainly use them to draw inspiration in the development of my own culinary identity. I am a realist however and realized there was no way to throw together a plate of Tandoori chicken without some expert advice. I knew there were spices like cardamom and garam masala involved with some yogurt thrown in at some stage but apart from that I was at a loss. Cooks Illustrated stepped in with a detailed explanation and I was off cooking from there. This was far and away one of the best chickens I have ever made which the shoddy photography simply cannot convey.

The dish is relatively easy to make though it does require a lot of hands on work and some time. Score each piece of skinless bone-in chicken parts with small incisions using a sharp knife then rub each piece with a mixture of toasted chili powder, cumin, and garam masala, fresh garlic, and ginger combined with lime juice and salt. Let the pieces rest for a half hour at room temperature. In the meantime mix a second batch of the above mentioned spice mixture with a cup of plain yogurt. Preheat the oven to 300, toss chicken with the yogurt mixture, and roast scored side down for 20 mins. Remove chicken and set oven to broil. Turn chicken and broil scored side up for about 15 minutes until nicely charred and cooked through. The crispy charred exterior, red color, and exotic spiced flavors are spot on and will effectively remind you of authentic Tandoori chicken. I served the chicken alongside basmati rice tossed with lime zest and golden raisins, homemade raita, Old Major Greys mango chutney, and a basket of warm whole-wheat pita. Raita is a mixture of plain yogurt, cilantro, cayenne, and finely minced garlic served as a condiment to cool the palette when eating overly spiced foods. Most North African, Mediterranean, and Eastern cultures that thrive in hot or dry climates have a yogurt-based condiment of some sort. Whether Indian raita, Greek tsatsiki, or Middle Eastern tahini-yogurt sauce, yogurt is employed for the same purpose cross culturally. They ease the consumption of spicy foods intended to cool the body internally from arid weather. Food anthropologists have argued that the hotter the climate, the hotter the food prepared by the people living there due in part to the fact that capsaicin, the chemical in chilies and other spicy things, help the body feel cooler. Piquant spices also help stimulate appetite and digestion, which flag in hotter climates, and are commonly employed to prevent food spoilage. As always, I encourage you to enjoy and share delicious food and home cooked meals with yourself and others!


Nick Roth said...

That should looks fucking bomb.

Am I allowed to swear on your blog?


Amelia said...

It was epic. Most delicious thing EVER.

Tonya @ What's On My Plate said...

Your dish looks great and what a great recount of the experience! I linked back to your blog from my site. this was a good recipe.