This entry is part 32 of 81 in the series Gluten-Free
While I am at the IACP conference I won’t have a chance to write new posts, so today I am sharing one of my favorites:
When I was working in San Francisco, there was a wonderful Indian restaurant in Ghirardelli Square on the wharf, where my friends and I would gather after a hard week of work. Filling our bellies with exotic fare and enjoying the luxurious surroundings, we would relax, laugh, and tell stories. This is where I discovered the tandoori method of cooking.
Even if you think you don’t like Indian food, I will lay odds that you will love Tandoori! This is not curry, it isn’t very spicy, and it has flavors that you will find in many other cuisines. Friends who swear they can’t stand Indian food ask me for this recipe!
A big part of the flavor comes from the marinade. Marinating is an ancient method of infusing flavors into meats. You can do this with a wet or dry technique. Traditional marinades are wet, but more recently dry rubs have become the rage. In tandoori cooking, the meats are marinated in a seasoned yogurt which is thick enough to stick to the meat and the flavors migrate into the interior. The natural acid in the yogurt also acts as a mild meat tenderizer. If you have had tandoori at Indian restaurants, you probably are used to seeing bright red meats. If you want to do the same, you can add red food coloring to the marinade. I prefer the natural yellow from the saffron and turmeric.
Tandoori cooking is actually named for the Tandoor Oven that is used to cook in. It is essentially a clay oven large enough to hold a very hot fire then marinated meats on long metal skewers are lowered into the heat for cooking. You wind up with a slightly smoky, tender, and moist meat, perfectly cooked and always delicious.
- When I was working in San Francisco, there was a wonderful Indian restaurant in Ghirardelli Square on the wharf, where my friends and I would gather after a hard week of work. Filling our bellies with exotic fare and enjoying the luxurious surroundings, we would relax, laugh, and tell stories. This is where I discovered the tandoori method of cooking.
- Since Tandoor ovens are hard to find, you can use your outdoor barbecue just as effectively. Build as hot a fire as you can and keep the lid on to trap the heat. To mimic the heat source of the oven, bank your hardwood charcoal fire on one side of the barbecue (or heat only one side of an electric grill) creating a 2-tiered fire. This allows you to sear the meat over the direct heat and finish cooking over indirect heat. It is much easier to control the cooking by moving your food around and turning it often. Use a chimney starter to light your charcoal so you can avoid using lighter fluid. It makes your food taste foul and is unhealthy for the environment!
- If you prefer, you can also make this with any meats (turkey, duck, pork, beef, or fish are all great). Marinate and cover with plastic. Hold in the refrigerator until ready to cook. You can also use boneless meats, cut into cubes and thread on skewers before cooking. When they are done cooking, serve on a pile of saffron rice.
- Saffron rice is the traditional side dish served with tandoori-cooked foods. Not only is a stunning shade of yellow which contrasts beautifully with the meats, but is acts as a sponge to absorb all the delicious juices. Saffron is very expensive but a little goes a long way and it lends a lovely aromatic distinctive flavor to foods. If you want the color without using saffron, you can use turmeric instead. I often use them in combination to boost the color and still get the flavor of saffron.
- So take a leap of faith and try this method of marinating and cooking. Add more heat if you like spicy food or leave it fairly mild. Serve it with the cooling Cucumber Yogurt sauce and you’ll have the traditional flavors of Indian tandoori foods. And once you discover how much you love this chicken, you’ll know exactly what to order the next time your friends want to go to dinner at an Indian restaurant!
- Jane’s Tips and Hints:
- When grilling chicken, always leave the skin on. It helps protect the meat from drying out and burning. If you are watching your weight, you can remove it before serving. You will lose some of the flavor, but the benefits far outweigh cooking the chicken skinless.
- Kitchen Skill: Marinating Meats
- Marinating infuses flavors and moisture into meats. Combine seasonings and aromatics in either a wet or dry application. Wet marinades often combine an acid (wine, vinegar, or lemon juice for example) with a neutral liquid (water, chicken stock, etc.) and seasonings.
- A dry marinade is also known as a dry rub. In both cases the meat is immersed or rubbed with the marinade, covered, and kept in the refrigerator. Depending on the type of protein, this can take 10 minutes to several days. The end result is a fully flavored protein that is tender, moist, and better able to withstand the rigors of cooking without becoming dry.
- Tandoori-Style Barbecued Chicken with Saffron Rice
- Jane Evans Bonacci © 1992
- Yield: 6 servings
- 12 chicken thighs, bone-in, skin on
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 1 large onion, grated
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp grated fresh ginger
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
- 2 tsp paprika
- 3 tsp ground turmeric
- Pinch saffron threads, crushed
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp chipotle powder
- Juice of 2 lemons
- Cucumber Yogurt Sauce
- 2 cups plain yogurt
- 1 tsp salt
- 6 to 8 fresh mint leaves, finely minced
- 1 cucumber, seeded, grated, and squeezed to remove as much liquid as possible
- Squeeze of fresh lemon juice, if desired
- Grilled Vegetables
- Thickly sliced onions, zucchini, potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, asparagus, bell peppers, etc.
- Olive oil