Tandoori-Style Roasted Chicken
I’m really enjoying a cookbook I got this fall — “All About Roasting: A New Approach to a Classic Art” by Buffalo native, Chef Molly Stevens. If you haven’t checked it out, I assure you it’s a keeper of a cookbook. In the fashion of many of my favorites, it is as much a reference book as a treasure trove of delicious recipes to discover. Chef Molly introduces each section of her book with explanations and anecdotes, and uses telling photos and clear step-by-step instructions, when needed. I’m learning useful tricks for many techniques and have already incorporated several of her recommendations into preparations and recipes I use regularly.
One of my husband’s favorite restaurant dishes is chicken tandoori from India Gate. When I came across the recipe “Tandoori-Style Roasted Chicken Legs,” I knew I had to make it for him right away. Note that the recipe in the book calls for chicken legs, but we happened to have some nice fresh, local bone-in skin-on split chicken breast on hand so I tweaked it to accommodate that. The chicken came so juicy and flavorful, and although it has quite a few steps, this is a fun recipe to make. Here’s the recipe as I made it:
Tandoori-Style Roasted Chicken
2 1/2 pounds bone-in chicken (may use drumsticks, thighs, breast or combination)
For the marinade
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt, whole-milk or low-fat
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger (~1- to 1 1/2-inch piece)
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
For roasting and serving
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 large white onion
- 1 tablespoon peanut oil or other neutral-tasting oil
- 1/4 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems, coarsely chopped
- 1 lemon, cut into wedges
- Prepare the marinade: With a paring knife, cut diagonal slashes about 1/2-inch deep into the fleshy parts of the chicken pieces. Make 3 or 4 slashes in each piece, about 1 inch apart. Transfer the chicken to a plastic zip-top bag or baking dish.
- In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, garlic, ginger, lemon juice, cumin, garam masala, salt, paprika and cayenne. Toss the chicken with the marinade, massaging the pieces so the marinade gets into the slits and evenly covers all surfaces. Seal the bag or cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours.
- Heat the oven. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 500°F. Let the chicken sit at room temperature as the oven heats, at least 30 minutes.
- Roast the chicken. Arrange the chicken pieces skin side up, about 2 inches apart on a broiler pan or wire rack set above a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet, leaving on as much of the marinade as possible. (If you have a cast iron grill pan, I love the result of cooking recipes such as this on it.) Scrape any extra marinade onto the chicken, so long as it doesn’t puddle up on the pain; it will cook down and make a sort of crust on the chicken as it roasts.
- Drizzle the top of the chicken pieces with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter. Roast chicken, flipping after about 10 minutes; drizzle with another tablespoon of butter. Continue roasting until cooked through — about 20-25 minutes for legs and small pieces, and about 35-40 minutes for breasts. A meat thermometer should read 180 to 190 degrees when inserted into a thick part of the chicken.
- While chicken is cooking, cut the onion in half lengthwise (through root end) and trim ends, cutting the base at an angle to remove the root end. Slice each half crosswise into 1/4-inch half moons. With your fingers, separate pieces into shreds.
- Heat a heavy 8- or 9-inch skillet over high heat until very hot, about 2 minutes. Add the oil, immediately swirl the pan to distribute the oil, and add the onions. Do not stir until the onions begin to color, then add a pinch of salt and saute, stirring occasionally, until charred in spots and slightly softened, about 8 minutes. Transfer the onions to a warm serving platter and cover with foil.
- Transfer chicken to a serving platter, nestling the pieces among the onions. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of butter on top, sprinkle with cilantro, and arrange the lemon wedges around the edges. Cover with foil and let sit for 5-10 minutes to allow the chicken to rest and flavors to meld. Serve chicken accompanied by charred onions and lemon.
If you aren’t familiar with garam masala (first photo in the series above), I recommend picking up a small amount from your area Indian market, Penzey’s or your favorite grocery store for getting spices. I purchased a decent sized bag awhile back at an Indian market, and I am borderline obsessed with this incredibly aromatic spice blend. I have been using it in my Indian dishes and exploring other ways to incorporate it ever since. I suggest getting it in the whole pieces and grinding it yourself in a spice grinder, but if you don’t have a spice grinder, go ahead and get the pre-ground blend. Although it may seem like a small amount, it is essential to the flavor of this dish.
Served with naan and basmati rice, this dinner was perfect. We’ll definitely be making it again soon!