Tandoori chicken has a fan following in the Indian subcontinent as well as many other parts of the world , and rightfully so too . This appetizing chicken preparation is pleasing to the eye and the palette. Chicken is marinated in yogurt and spices and cooked in the clay ovens called Tandoor resulting in a juicy , flavorful and light chicken dish that is enjoyed by both adults and kids a like .
This is a popular dish in many restaurants serving Indian Fare. Tandoori chicken masala is readily available in stores or online. To get the appealing red color most commercial brands resort to food color . As much as my family loves juicy tender chicken , I balk at the thought of feeding them bottles of food coloring and other additives. These juicy, tender , flavorful chicken can be made right in the home oven without much effort , and without the use of synthetic dyes.
I marinate the chicken in 2 steps. The first step is to tenderize the meat and make it more friendly to the spices . This involves lemon juice salt and a dash of ginger . Clean the chicken and make a few deep gashes on it . Rub this marinade all over the chicken pieces and set aside for 10 minutes .
While the 1st marinade is doing the heavy lifting , prepare the second marinade. Start with thick yogurt , Greek yogurt works well . If you don’t have Greek yogurt, line a strainer with muslin or few layers of cheese cloth and let the regular yogurt strain for about 1 hour. Mix thick yogurt with cayenne , paprika , annato (optional), garam masala , cumin powder, ginger and garlic . I strongly recommend using fresh ginger and garlic . Use a micro plane or grater to grate these or mortar and pestle to crush it fine . No store bought paste can come close to fresh ginger and garlic . Rub this mix all over the chicken and cover and refrigerate for at least an hour , up to 6 hours .
A word on Annato :
Annato is derived from the seeds of achiote . It is used as a spice and coloring agent in many Latin American countries. The flavor is mild and it imparts a red or orange red color to food .
When ready to cook take out the meat from the refrigerator Preheat the oven to 500°F or as high as it can go . Wait for a few minutes even after the oven thermometer has reached the desired temperature . Place a wire rack over a sheet pan or line a sheet pan with with aluminum foil and lightly spray some oil . Rub the excess marinade from the chicken pieces and arrange them on the at least 1 inch apart.
After 20 minutes remove from the oven and baste the tops lightly with oil/melted ghee . Turn the pieces, if looks dry baste with oil. Return to the oven for 10 to 15 more minutes. Keep an eye on them to prevent burning . Remove from the oven , and cover and let it rest for 10 minutes . Serve with lemon and onions .
- The recipe here is usually sufficient for 2 lbs / 1 kg of chicken pieces .
- Though the home ovens do not produce as high heat as the tandoor , the resulting chicken will be fully cooked through and moist .
- This recipe is very versatile and I always cook some chicken breast along with thigh and leg pieces . These are later cup and used in other dishes like curries , pizzas , sandwiches , or salads .
- Longer marinades do not make the meat tender . In fact after sometime the acidity start breaking down the protein destroying its ability to retain moisture .
- I would not recommend keeping the chicken marinated for over 24 hours . If you have to then use only second marinade and add the 1 tsp more salt to it .
Chicken Pieces - 2 Lbs (1 Kg) skinless , bone in
Lemon Juice - 4 Tbsp
Salt - 1Tsp
Grated Ginger - 1 Tsp
Thick Yogurt - 1/4 C
Cayenne - 1 Tsp (Optional)
Paprika - 2 Tsp
Annato - 1 Tsp
Garam masala - 1Tsp
Cumin - 1 Tsp (Toast and Powder)
Garlic - 2 Cloves (Grated)
Ginger - 1" Piece (1 Tbsp grated)
Salt - 1 to 11/2 Tsp (To taste)
Oil/Ghee - 2 Tbsp
Clean and trim the chicken pieces . Using a sharp knife make couple of deep gashes on each.
Prepare the 1st marinade by mixing the lemon juice, 1 tsp salt and a dash of grated ginger. Rub all over the chicken and set aside for 10 minutes.
Mix the ingredients for the second marinade together. Rub all over the chicken pieces and marinate in the fridge for at least an hour, preferably overnight.
When ready to cook , take the chicken out of the refrigerator .
Preheat the oven to 500°F or as high as your oven can go .
Line a sheet pan with aluminium foil and apply a light coating of oil, or place a stainless steel cooling rack on it .
Remove the chicken pieces one by one and wipe off excess marinade.
Arrange the pieces on the sheet pan leaving at least 1" between them .
Bake for 20 minutes, remove from oven and brush oil on the top .
Turn over the pieces . If looking dry brush with oil. Return to the oven .
Bake for 10 - 15 more minutes .
Remove from the oven and loosely cover with aluminum foil / large bowl and let rest for 10 minutes .
Serve with lemon wedges / sliced onions .
Annato or Paprika imparts color to the chicken . Use both or either as desired.
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