Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Recipe of the Week: Tandoori Chicken

we had a craving for indian food last week and it was unseasonably hot out.  i did not want to turn the oven on and heat up the house, so the grill is always the best summer option when you're trying not to turn on the AC.  i love that unnaturally red and delicious chicken leg on the indian buffet, but living half way around the world from india, it's hard to find any sort authenticity in it.

after searching around the web for recipes, i found that tandoori is a bit of a time consuming marinade that is a lot more difficult to produce than that glowing red chicken leg on the buffet looks to be.  i only found options that seemed either far too betty-crockerized or too original for me to find the appropriate spices.  so i did a bit of research into the different spice mixtures and the different fla-romas that combine to create some of the classic indian flavors.  most of the classic recipes i found contained a spice mix called chaat.  chaat is a roasted mix of seeds and other spices, but contains some peculiar ingredients for a good 'ole indiana white boy.  for example, carom seeds.  never heard of it.  i found that it is actually a fruit and not a seed and related to the thyme plant and contains the same chemical aromas.  so i replaced carom seeds with thyme and caraway seeds.  i used caraway seeds because there is an italian version of caraway that contains thymol, and therefore thought that it would be a good compliment to attempt to get at the root of the fla-roma of the carom seeds.  again it was just a guess, but i was quite happy with the results.  and besides, learning to make your own spice mixes allows you to manage the flavors the way you want.  think of it as trying to mix green or orange paint, without using green or orange paint.  for example, i like ginger, so i doubled what most recipes i found asked for.

roasted chaat spice mix

1 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp fennel seed
1 tsp coriander seed
1 tsp caraway seed
1 tsp mustard seed
1 tsp cloves (5-7 whole cloves)
1 tsp black pepper
   (all of the above ingredients need to be whole seed, not ground)
1 tsp dried mint
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
2 whole dried chilies or 2 tsp ground dried red chili
salt to taste

dry roast all of the whole seeds in a hot-as-hell iron skillet. (this only takes about 30-60 seconds, anymore and you'll burn them and have a bitter flavor).  set aside and allow to cool for a few minutes, then grind all the seeds together with a mortar and pestle or if you're fancy pants, a spice grinder.  mix in the dried and already ground spices and continue grinding the mix together.  when it is finely ground it is done.  it should have a smokey/warm aroma and a somewhat hot and zingy flavor when complete.  i'm only using 1 tsp of each because spices are expensive, and once its ground together this mix really only lasts a couple of months before the flavors and aromas become convoluted.

tandoori chicken marinade

6 tbsp of REAL full fat greek yogurt (look at the label, if there is anything other than milk and cultures, you're buying fake shit thickened with pectin, guar gum or some other 'all-natural' chemical emulsifier, fage total is a good brand, chobani is not)
1/2 of a small papaya
2 tbsp ginger paste
2-3 garlic cloves finely chopped
1 lemon
1 tbsp of red chili (or 2 if you like it hot)
1/2 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander seed
1/2 tsp allspice
1 tbsp chaat mix from above
1 tbsp mustard seed infused coconut oil (melt a tbsp of coconut oil in a pan, add in 1 tsp of whole mustard seed, when they start to pop like pop corn its done)

mix all the ingredients in a bowl (except the infused coconut oil).  get everything mixed together, then infuse the coconut oil and stir it in to the mix (coconut oil is solid at room temperature, so you have to stir it in as you add it).  score 4 chicken breasts on all sides and add to the marinade.  coat all pieces thoroughly, and let set in the fridge for at least 4 hours.  overnight is best, but give it at least 4 hours to soak up some of those flavors and aromas.  i let mine soak for 6 hours.  flop them on at high heat grill and get a good sear on one side at least.  reduce your heat and continue cooking chicken fully.  the high heat will get a good smokey flavor into the chicken, but if you go to long it will be burnt on the outside and salmonella on the inside.  so basically sear it, then bake it in the grill.  serve it on a bed of grilled white onion with some yogurt rice and veggies.  prep time is about 30 minutes and cook time is also about 30 minutes.  prep it after breakfast or before lunch and cook it for dinner.  it's not red, but it is damn delicious and the flavors are so robust you'll forget what the buffet red leg tastes like.

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