Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tandoori Chicken

In India there are several brands of masala [blended spices] for the chicken tandoori and every one with its own taste. I do not like all of them but i found one that is so well proportioned the chicken tastes always juicy and flavorful the way i really like it. I am already salivating. So, i never prepared the masala from scratch, i can not give you the proportions [they are not indicated] but here is the list of spices [taken from the packed masala]. Blending spices is the secret of every cook but you can try to make your own starting with very small doses, if you cannot find any Indian/Pakistani store near you.

Spices for chicken tandoori masala:
  • kashmiri chilies - they give the nice bright red color [Indians use also food color]
  • coriander seeds
  • fenugreek seeds
  • unripe mango powder [amchoor]
  • fennel
  • pepper
  • cardamom
  • cumin seeds
  • cloves lightly toasted
  • ginger [you can also use the fresh one grated]
  • garlic powder or fresh
  • amchoor is perhaps difficult to find but it is quite essential for its very special lemony taste.

Ingredients for Tandoori chicken:
  • Skinless chicken [thighs are my favorite]
  • Tandoori masala
  • Labneh [yogurt drained for several hours]
  • Lemon or lime juice
The chicken can be cut in bites or in big pieces with the bones but skinless, and it is absolutely necessary to let the marinade penetrate well into the meat by making deep cuts to the bone.
Here we use to make these deep cuts because the tandoori cooking cannot last for long, otherwise it burns the meat and so, with the deep cuts the lemon reaches the bone and prevents the meat to remain raw right next to the bone. However if you like the skin and you are going to cook the chicken in a regular oven do not remove it.

  1. First you need to marinate the chicken in lime/lemon juice. This is a kind of precooking the meat so that it can be fast cooked at the grill.
  2. After a few hours of marinating in lime I coat the chicken with the spices and keep it in the fridge overnight [a couple of hours is also enough].
  3. The day after [early morning] spread the labneh around the meat and into the cuts.
  4. Keep the chicken in the refrigerator until oven time.
  5. Place the chicken on aluminum foil and in the oven only when the grill is at high temperature [450°F] and bake for 25/30 minute or more if big pieces.
  6. Indians add ghee [clarified butter] after ten minutes of cooking but I never added any type of fat and has always been very good anyway.
Another simpler way to prepare this recipe:
  1. mix the masala [powdered spices] with labneh [the strained yogurt]
  2. dip the chicken in it
  3. marinate overnight in the refrigerator
  4. bake at 450°F for 25 minutes or more if big pieces or whole chicken
You can also add to the marinade chopped ginger, garlic, onion and grated unripe papaya.

Here is a video about chicken tandoori, showing how to cut the chicken if you want to cook it whole:

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