Friday, February 1, 2008

Chicken Tandoori

A relative of mine who was stationed in Iraq brought me back this cool-looking spice mixture. The picture does not capture the beauty of this jar of spices. It's like one of those sand-art jars, but all in gorgeous sepia and ochre colors. I had to use it!

So I did a little research. First, I googled Masala Mix, which turned up a really weird and oddly chaste peeping tom site. (I don't usually -- um, ever -- post links to what could be loosely, vaguely, possibly described at exploitative or god, in another universe maybe pornographic, but this one is pretty hilarious in its self-incriminating and innocent lechery. Don't say I didn't warn you.)

Google was not helping. Enter Madhur Jaffrey. Good old Madhur Jaffrey! Her book Step By Step Cooking is one of my favorite cookbooks of all time, and she did not disappoint. Her recipe for Tandoori Chicken contained most of the spices in my sand art mix (To be exact: "Turmeric, Corriander, Red Chilly, Cummin, Mix Masala, Leomn, Cloves, Cassia, Black Pepper, Dry Ginger, Cardamom.")

On the advice of Madhur Jaffery, the contents of my fridge, some long-hovering ideas about my ideal plate of Central Asian food, and some other things, this is what I came up with:

Tandoori Chicken
Punjabi Cholle (Chick Peas cooked with Spices and Plum Tomatoes)
Kale, finely chopped and sauteed with a bit of pancetta (not very central Asian, but so good!)
Spicy Condiment of tomatoes, chili, onions and ginger
Brown Basmati Rice

Indian food is notorious for taking hours and days to cook; mine is a vastly simplified version, and didn't. Plus, the chicken marinates for 24 hours, so on dinner night, you just have to put it in the oven, start the rice cooker and deal with the kale and the chickpeas. Not a big deal.

My kids did well with this, even though these are flavors they've never really tried before. They ate some kale and chickpeas, had lots of rice, and both picked at the chicken, which tasted a little weird for them (new flavors for chicken: yogurt, turmeric and coriander). I thought it was a successful dinner, with adults eating all the spicy flavors they wanted, and everybody sitting and dining together. Hey, man, what else do we want out of dinner?

PS next time I will have mango chutney and naan and we will be so extremely happy.

NOTE: if you have an Indian spice mix, you can substitute here for the mixtures I recommend.


1 tsp each of: turmeric, garam masala, coriandar, cumin
1/4 tsp each of: cloves, ginger, cayenne, black pepper
1 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves, smashed or minced
Juice from one lemon
2 tsp salt
8 chicken thighs
thin slices of onion
Coriander sprigs

1. Mix spices, yogurt, olive oil, garlic, lemon and salt. Add chicken, and let marinate for 24 hours.
2. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes. Then turn up heat and put under the broiler for about 10 minutes or until skin is brown and crispy.
Serve with the raw onion and coriander.

Chickpeas and Spicy Condiment
1/2 onion, chopped finely
1/4 cup ginger, chopped finely
1/4 cup olive oil
3-4 plum tomatoes (canned), chopped finely
1 tsp each: coriander, turmeric, cumin, cloves, hot pepper
1 green chili, cut in half
1 can chickpeas, drained

1. Heat olive oil and add onion and ginger. When soft, add tomatoes. Mix and remove half of mixture to a smaller pan. Add chickpeas to the smaller pan and heat, then set aside. Meanwhile, add spices and chili to the original pan and cook down into a soft, spicy relish.

1 bunch kale
Small amount of fat back, pancetta or bacon (or 2 tbs olive oil)

Strip kale from its stems (Use your hands, and just strip it off).
Chop very finely and rinse.

Heat pork fat or olive oil in pan. Add kale and cover. Cook until dark green and soft. Set aside.

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