Adventures in Tandoori Chicken

This tandoori chicken was a real adventure. I was hoping that it wouldn’t be good so I wouldn’t have to make it again, but of course, it was absolutely delicious. David made so many “yum” sounds, and I ate most of the skin (naughty!). Those are two signs of deliciousness that I can’t deny. I’ll have to amend the cooking technique to be less of a smokey disaster next time. Here is what happened: I took a recipe shortcut that resulted in small bits of marinade falling off of the chicken as it cooked at a very high heat. Those bits burned and smoked like crazy. All of my smoke alarms went off and Stella was screaming like a loon. Fortunately, David was around to help me control the mayhem by fanning at the smoke detectors (my shoulders are sore from it), opening the windows (which normally require three of my hands to pry up), calming the pup, and venting smoke out the front door.

To summarize… Downsides of the chicken: (1) My building manager was fanning the hallway as I was leaving for class and I had to shamefully admit to being the smoke culprit; and (2) the smell of smoke in my hair restricted my breath for the rest of the night. Upsides of the chicken: It was amazing! I’ll conquer these obstacles to enjoy it again. Don’t let my misadventures deter you from enjoying it too.

This chicken gets its great flavor from the marinade. Marinate your chicken for at least 4 hours or overnight for ultimate flavor. Make the marinade by blending or combining in a food processor 1 cup of plain, nonfat yogurt, 1/2 onion, 2 garlic cloves, a 1 inch piece of fresh, peeled ginger, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of cumin, 1 teaspoon of ground coriander, and salt and pepper to taste. Notice my fatal flaw? Instead of blending the marinade, I thought mincing all of the ingredients would suffice. IT DID NOT. Put the marinade in a zip-lock bag or bowl with your chicken, and let it rest in the refrigerator. This recipe makes enough marinade for a whole chicken (4 chicken quarters, 8 chicken pieces).

When you’re ready to cook the chicken, preheat the oven to 500°F. Then, set up a roasting rack above a sheet pan lined with tinfoil. Let any excess marinade drip off of the chicken, season it with salt and pepper on both sides, and place it skin-side down on the rack. Put it in the oven for 15 minutes. Then, turn the chicken over, and bake it for another 20 minutes. Next, turn the temperature down to 450ºF, and bake the chicken for another 10 minutes until it is fully cooked. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before serving.

This is what my chicken looked like after 18 minutes when it started smoking out my apartment. If, at any point, you notice the faintest hint of smoke accumulating in the kitchen, replace the foil lining immediately. This step should remove the burning bits and give you a fresh start. The chicken itself never caused smoke, just the drippings did. You should have even less of a problem if your marinade starts off chunk free.

Here is my chicken after it was fully cooked. Unfortunately, the smoke fiasco threw off my cooking schedule, and no natural light remained to fully capture the glory of crispy-skinned tandoori chicken. I served my chicken with sweet potato fries and steamed broccoli, but rice or naan would be delicious too. Enjoy the tender, juicy meat along with its crispy, flavorful skin. And in case you are wondering (probably not), I have since shampooed my hair, and it smells considerably less smoky.

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food magazine.

Shopping list:

  • Chicken- up to a whole bird
  • Plain, non-fat yogurt- 1 cup
  • Onion- 1/2
  • Garlic- 2 cloves
  • Fresh ginger- 1 inch piece
  • Lemon- 1
  • Cumin- 1 teaspoon
  • Ground coriander- 1 teaspoon
  • Salt and pepper
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