One of the first “exotic” dishes I tried making was this one by Bobby Flay off the Food Network. It called originally for a whole Cornish hen instead of chicken breasts but I found that the chicken breasts absorb more flavor because there is more surface area for the marinade. Also, it’s easier to eat this way not having to pick the meat off the bone and leaves more leftovers. It is amazing to me that something that tastes this good is so good for you too. A word of warning: this dish is not difficult to prepare but it requires planning ahead! Marination overnight is recommended and the cook time is up to 2 hours. I don’t know how many times I’ve wanted to make this dish but didn’t have the time or wouldn’t be able to let it marinate long enough. It’s worth it though really! A friend of mine edited this recipe to be made in the oven if you don’t have a rotisserie – click here for instructions.
It is called “Tandoori Chicken” because of the method used for cooking is traditionally a tandoor oven. This type of bell-shaped clay oven is used for cooking a wide variety of foods in the Middle East and central and southern Asia. Anything coming out of a tandoor oven can be called “Tandoori”. Since I don’t have a tandoor, well, the name only implies the flavoring rather than the cooking method.
Typically, tandoori chicken is made with a variety of spices mixed in with yogurt to make a marinade. Almost all tandoori chicken recipes have cayenne pepper, ginger and garlic. Saffron, garam masala and turmeric are also common. Every recipe is a little different, but all are known to be savory, tangy and have the chicken tinted a hot yellow to red color depending on the spices used.
I’m fairly new to ginger. I’d heard of Ginger Ale and then when I began enjoying sushi, pickled ginger. After actually seeing a ginger root though, I wasn’t sure at all where to start with one. It turns out, they’re not as hard to cook with as they look. When cooking with fresh ginger, it is usually measured by inches. Fresh ginger comes looking something like a gnarled, arthritic hand. In fact, some measurements go by the “hand” or “finger” of a ginger root.
Ginger is a root vegetable known to have lots of very good medicinal qualities. Mainly for digestion, ginger root aids in gastric motility, can relieve nausea and constipation. Ginger also has been shown in some studies to be an anti-inflammatory helping with arthritis and also has been shown to lower cholesterol helping with heart disease. Ginger can be consumed in so many ways. It is pickled, eaten raw, candied, oils are used for drinks and it is powdered for baking.
Depending on where you shop, fresh ginger can get expensive. $5.00 – $6.00 a pound most places. I suggest finding your local Asian or Indian market. Most of the ethnic grocery stores sell more of these type of items and spices in bulk and at my local Indian grocery, ginger is $1.99/pound. If the skin is intact, ginger will keep for a long time when kept dry in the refrigerator. For residents around Gainesville Florida, try “India Bazaar” on 34th street towards Williston Rd. (next right after the Goodwill past Archer Rd.) When you’re ready to cook with your ginger, break off a piece you need, and with a paring knife, peel away the skin like you might peel a carrot. I don’t use a peeler for this though because ginger-skin is very thin and a peeler takes off too much of the ginger underneath.
Now to the messy parts! Things you’ll need:
- 6-10 cloves garlic – coarsely chopped
- 1″ fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped. (I usually use more than this)
- 1 tsp saffron threads
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (this is roughly the juice from one large lime)
- 16 oz plain (fat-free) yogurt (I use 1 cup more than this to keep some aside for dipping)
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
- 1 medium yellow onion – medium chopped
- 6 chicken breasts
- Fresh cilantro and lime wedges for accent
To start, mix well the first 11 ingredients in a large bowl. Take out the 1 cup of extra yogurt and set aside in the fridge. Mix in the onion and stir well before adding the chicken. Make sure the chicken is well covered in the marinade. Cover with shrink-wrap or tinfoil and place in the fridge overnight. I have left it longer than this at times, up to 32 hours and it has turned out fine.
Pre-heat the grill on high. Before your chicken is ready to hit the rotisserie, a little prep is needed. This part is really messy. Get out a large casserole dish and use this to help contain the skewered chickens. To best skewer the chicken, fold it in half end-to-end and pierce (the chicken will look like an inch-worm or a squished letter “n”.
After all the chickens are on the skewer, place the holding brackets on and make sure there is enough pressure to keep the breasts in the middle from slipping. Once this is accomplished, take your casserole dish and a cookie sheet lined with tin-foil (a cookie sheet with sides is best) out to the grill. Turn off the lower burners, you shouldn’t run the rotisserie with the burners on too. Pour the leftover marinade into the cookie-sheet and place this under where the chicken will be turning. Another tip I have is to take out a few wooden tooth-picks with you. Once you get the chicken turning, often you’ll find that loose or longer bits of chicken are flopping with each turn. Tack those pieces down for even cooking.
Once you set the rotisserie rod up, turn the rotisserie burner on medium-high and spoon more marinade over the chicken as it turns. Cook with the grill-lid down. Your chicken will need to roast for 1.5-2 hours but will need to be checked-on frequently to make sure the rod is turning and the chicken is not burning. Also, basting it with more marinade every 20 min or so is good. The heat from the rotisserie should kill off any food-bacteria while it’s in there. I have made this dish at least 10 times and have never had an issue. Either way, use a cookie-sheet under the chicken to catch the falling marinade, it’s a messy thing to clean up!
When the center-most chicken is cooked, take the chicken off the rod (with heat-resistant gloves or mitts) and plate. Top with fresh cilantro and a slice of lime over rice or lettuce. Don’t forget the extra yogurt you saved! I like to use a dollop on top before I add the cilantro to hide the skewer hole in the chicken.