Tandoori chicken

Summer is here and so are the outdoor grilling parties and picnics! Tandoori chicken is one of my go-to grilling dishes (not that I am any good with grilling, I rather prefer indoor roasting). It cooks up super fast with minimal preparation (except the ahead of time marinating) and the best part is, pretty much everyone (yes, even people who generally dislike spicy Indian food) end up loving this simple moist roasted chicken when served with some yogurt mint raita. And not to mention this dish is also very economical to feed a large party because this is one chicken dish where drumsticks and legs actually work better than costlier chicken breats portions. I always buy all-natural organic chicken and anyone who has seen the prices recently will attest when I say that buying organic chicken cutlets enough to feed 10-12 people will cause anyone to go broke ;)

Tandoori chicken is prepared by marinating chicken with yogurt and Indian spices and then roasting it in clay ovens for a moist and tender meat. Traditionally tandoori chicken is cooked in these large clay ovens called tandoors. Now-a-days having a tandoor is very very rare so an oven with a broiler or an outdoor grill are good alternatives. Yogurt is a natural meat tenderizer so marinating the meat with yogurt and spices is essential for a good tandoori chicken. More the marinating time, the tender and moist the chicken will be. I usually marinade for around 4-6 hrs. It is also said that cutting slits into the chicken pieces before marinating helps the inner parts to get tender and spicy.

After the chicken has marinated you can either grill it, bake it (like the recipe below) or do a broil-bake combination. All three work very well. I do not own a grill and ever since I moved into my new house which incidently is missing the broiler pan, baking has been my only option but feel free to experiment with other cooking techniques.
Recipe: Serves 2
5 chicken drumsticks or leg pieces (skin ons are okay)
1C yogurt
1/4tsp turmeric powder
1/2tsp red chili powder
1tsp cumin powder
1tsp garam masala
2tsp paprika (for color)
2tsp coriander powder
juice of half lemon
1onion - sliced thinly lengthwise
2 small boiling potatoes - quartered
olive oil

*** The trick to getting the tandoori color is the addition of paprika. Traditionally you would add more chili pepper to get the color but unless you have a very mild variety of chili pepper, this will make the dish very spicy. I find that paprika is best in cases when you want the color without the heat.
*** Many people prefer to cook tandoori chicken on grill which I have heard gives excellent results. You can always cook this on grill if you wish.
*** If on 480F you still don't get browning as you wish, then broil the chicken for a few minutes.
  1. Combine yogurt with rest of the spices and lemon juice. Do not add extra water. Mix well.
  2. Clean wash and pat dry the chicken pieces. Using a knife make a few cuts on the pieces. Add the chicken pieces to the yogurt. Make sure yogurt fully covers the chicken pieces. 
  3. Cover the pot and marinate in fridge for ~4hrs.
  4. After 4hrs, preheat the oven to 425F.
  5. Cover a cookie sheet with an aluminium foil. Add onions and potatoes. Add some olive oil, salt & pepper and mix well.
  6. Remove chicken pieces from fridge and add on the bed of onions and potatoes. Make sure the yogurt marinade still covers them well (shake off any extra marinade).
  7. Drizzle more olive oil and salt & pepper on the chicken pieces.
  8. Bake for ~30mins. Then increase the heat to 480F and bake for another ~20-25mins or so on upper third of the oven (one nearest the heat source) until the chicken pieces are well browned and the chicken is cooked through (use a meat thermometer or when pierced with a knife juices should run clear).
  9. Remove from heat. Cover with another tin foil and let stand for 10mins before serving.
  10. Serve with some pulav and cool yogurt mint raita.