Simple oven baked Tandoori chicken served with tangy onions (kachumbar)
I’ve been missing home particularly a lot lately. Maybe it’s the freezing winter here, or the Christmas spirit that’s all about families… or maybe it’s also because it’s been a while since I visited home. As my semester winds down to an end and I look forward to 6 weeks of no classes, I am craving a trip home and catching up with my friends and family. As a substitute, I’ve been trying to replicate a few dishes from home.
Tandoori chicken wasn’t that big a part of my childhood; however the few times my family ordered it from the local Mughlai restaurant, we relished it thoroughly. I loved the deep red color of the tangdis although I knew I was shoveling tons of artificial color down my body, and loved squeezing lime juice over the chicken pieces, then nibbling on the charred bits (my favorite). What I probably enjoyed more than the chicken itself, was the yummy kachumbar or sliced onion salad that they packed with the chicken. There was something about the way the onion was sliced super thin, that made it all the more yummy.
Tandoori chicken is India’s answer to Barbequed meat. As many of you may know, the name tandoori chicken comes from the clay oven called tandoor, that it’s made in. While I don’t have a tandoor, and an American grill wouldn’t cook the chicken the way tandoori chicken is supposed to end up tasting, I searched for ways I could replicate the same tastes by cooking the chicken in an oven. The answer lied at the back of pack of tandoori spice mix
I used the recipe from a tandoori spice mix pack as the foundation, and made several changes to achieve the taste I was looking for. I started the recipe, thinking it would take a long time to make, but the chicken was fairly quick to prepare. The recipe starts with cleaning the chicken and removing the skin. Then, a quick ginger-garlic paste marinade makes sure the meat is tenderized. The chicken is then pressure cooked… yes, pressure cooked, for just one whistle. I found this step quite interesting, as in the past, when I have marinated chicken and tried to cook it on a grill, it takes a long time to cook through, which leaves the outer part of the chicken tough and hard, and the inner part, cooked through but dry.
Pressure cooking the chicken makes sure it is partially cooked, so when it is broiled in the oven, it cooks faster, but the result is perfectly charred from outside, and soft and juicy from inside. After this step, the chicken is basted in a mixture of spices and yogurt, and then baked in an oven. The whole process takes under 90 minutes from the time you start cleaning the chicken! Here’s my recipe for a really simple, oven-baked tandoori chicken, and a tangy onion kachumbar, to go with it. Serves 4 people.
For the onion Kachumbar –
- Thinly slice 1/2 a red onion and place in a glass bowl. Spritz juice of 1/2 a lime, add 1 tbsp of white vinegar and 1/4 tsp salt
- Sprinkle finely chopped cilantro, mix well, and place in the fridge
For the Tandoori Chicken –
- 12 chicken drumsticks or equivalent quantity in bone-in chicken, skinless, cleaned, washed thoroughly, and patted dry
- 2 spoonfuls yogurt (a little more or less doesn’t matter, use your regular soup spoon)
- About 50 gms Tandoori spice mix (available at any Indian grocery store. Measurement is in grams because these spices come from the Indian sub-continent)
- Juice of 1/4 lime
- 1.5 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
- A pressure cooker. If you don’t have one, cook chicken in boiling water.
- Baking trays with aluminum foil
- Vegetable oil and a basting brush
- Rub ginger-garlic paste well over all the chicken and allow to marinate in the fridge for about 15 minutes. Then, place in a pressure cooker with about 2 cups water, and cook for only one whistle. Alternatively, cook chicken in boiling water until it is 1/2 cooked. Do not fully cook the chicken
- While the chicken cooks, mix together all the other ingredients in a bowl. When the chicken is cooked and cooled, rub this mixture well all over the chicken pieces. Rub inside any cavities and below folds of flesh too. Allow to marinate for another 10 minutes
- In the mean time, prepare the baking trays; line with foil. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F. Place chicken on the trays and bake for about 20 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked. Then, remove from oven, baste with vegetable oil or melted butter, and place back in oven for 5-6 more minutes or until the right amount of char is achieved. This step helps the chicken get the appearance of authentic tandoori chicken.
- Serve immediately with the ‘pickled’ onion and slices of lime.