TANDOORI MURGHI (tandoori-style roasted chicken, for four)
Madhur’s recipe approximates tandoori chicken without a tandor, the traditional Indian clay oven heated with charcoal or wood. She notes that “the heat inside (a tandor) builds up to such an extent that small whole chickens, skewered and thrust into it, cook in about 10 minutes. This fierce heat seals the juices of the bird and keeps it moist while an earlier marinating process ensures that the chicken is tender and well-flavored. The result is quite spectacular.” This recipe is as close as you can get with a standard home oven.
one 3-1/2 pound chicken, quartered or cut into 8 pieces, the pieces skinned
1 teaspoon salt
1 juicy lemon
2 cups natural yogurt
½ medium-sized onion, peeled and quartered
1 clove garlic, peeled
a ¾ inch cube fresh ginger, peeled and quartered
½ fresh, hot green chile, roughly sliced
2 teaspoons garam masala
3 tablespoons yellow liquid food coloring mixed with ½ to 1 tablespoon red liquid food coloring (optional)
makkhani murghi for serving (optional)
1. Cut 2 long slits on the tops of the thighs and drumsticks. The slits should never start at an edge and they should be deep enough to reach the bone. Cut similar slits on the meaty side of each breast piece.
2. Spread the chicken pieces out on one or two large platters. Sprinkle with half the salt and squeeze the juice from three-quarters of the lemon over them. Lightly rub the salt and lemon juice into the slits. Turn the chicken pieces over and do the same on the other side with the remaining salt and lemon juice. Set aside for 20 minutes.
3. Combine the yogurt, onion, garlic, ginger, green chile and garam masala in the container of an electric blender or food processor. Blend until you have a smooth paste. Empty the paste into a sieve set over a large ceramic or stainless steel bowl. Push the paste through.
4. Brush the chicken pieces on both sides with the food coloring and then put them with any accumulated juices and any remaining food coloring into the bowl with the marinade. Mix well, making sure that the marinade goes into the slits in the chicken. Cover and refrigerate for 6 to 24 hours (the longer the better).
5. Preheat the oven to 450*.
6. Take the chicken pieces out of the bowl, shaking off as much of the marinade as possible. Arrange them in a large skillet in a single layer. Cook over high heat for 5 minutes, then transfer to the oven and roast, uncovered, for 30 minutes, or until just done. Let chicken rest in the skillet for 10 minutes before serving. Serve hot with lime wedges, or with the butter and tomato sauce that follows.
adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking