Tandoori Chicken Pita pockets served with cooling mint-cucumber yogurt
I just watched 3 episodes of Mad Men and finally snapped out of almost 15 minutes of active day-dreaming and hypothetical scenario-building about a life with the miracle of God’s creation that is Jon Hamm. I can’t say my brain is stable currently. Worry not! I’ll be fine as soon as I step away from my computer and face the prospect of plowing through the menacing to-do list for the day 😉
I was faced with the prospect of cooking dinner with an almost empty fridge except for a few breasts of chicken in the freezer and some fresh pita bread. In an earlier post, I had written about grilling chicken outdoors, the tandoori style. As it is still a freezing winter here in MN, I decided to follow Kulsum’s cooking technique for making Tandoori chicken in the oven.
While I used a Tandoori spice mix I got with me from India, Kulsum’s home-made spice mixture is one that I can personally vouch for as my mother makes a similar mix at home. Whether you use a ready spicy mix (available in any Indian grocery store), or one you make in advance at home, this meal is easy, no-mess and quick to prepare. I served it with a mint and cucumber yogurt dip that had a wonderful cooling effect on the spicy and tangy flavors of the chicken. Here’s how you make it:
- 3 breasts of chicken – makes about 4 pita pockets
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil or any oil that doesn’t smoke on high temperatures
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt
- 2 tbsp tandoori spice mix (add more if you like it spicier)
- 1 tsp salt (some tandoori spice mixes are made with salt, so check before adding extra salt)
- 1/2 tablespoon ginger & garlic paste
- Juice of 1/4 lemon
- A few Pita pockets, warmed – I buy the ones that have slits in them made by the manufacturer. You can also get plain Pita bread.
- Fresh lettuce and fresh sliced veggies for the pita pocket
- Prepare the chicken breasts to ensure maximum absorption of flavor. Wash and pat dry. You can make diagonal slits into the meatiest portions, or you can also butterfly the chicken for quicker cooking time and penetration of flavors.
- In a large glass bowl, mix together the yogurt, ginger-garlic paste, spice mix, salt, lemon juice and oil. At this stage, you can taste the mixture and see if you’d like to add more of the spice mix. Place the chicken in the mixture, mix well and allow to marinate for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator. You can also marinate it overnight for even better flavor.
- Heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a large cookie sheet or baking sheet and place the chicken breasts on the sheet. Bake for about 30 minutes, turning the breasts over after 20 minutes, or until the chicken is almost cooked.
- Turn on the broiler on high and broil the chicken for about 5 minutes or until it begins to brown and char a little
- Once cooked, allow to cool for a bit and then slice the chicken breasts
Mint-cucumber yogurt dip
- 1 cup thick plain yogurt
- 1/2 large cucumber, peeled, de-seeded, grated, and the juice squeezed out
- A handful of mint leaves, washed
- Salt and pepper to taste
Assembling the pita pockets
Warm the pita bread a little. Place sliced veggies or lettuce in the middle, top with as much chicken as you want, drizzle with the yogurt dip, fold over in half, and… ENJOY!