Tandoori Chicken | Pittsburgh Jewish History
The ingredient that makes or breaks the recipe is yogurt, so it’s a recipe I’ve avoided. The advent of vegan vegan yogurts and other fake “dairy” products has been a game-changer in home cooking and the kosher world in general. It’s not identical to real dairy in terms of flavor or consistency, but it sure makes it easier to satisfy my cravings.
There is no reason why we can’t enjoy ethnic cuisine from around the world in a kosher home.
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This recipe takes about 15 minutes of prep work, then you simply marinate the chicken for 6-8 hours in the fridge and roast it in the oven. My recipe will provide a close version of the real tandoori chicken, which is prepared in a special clay oven – I’m not going to pretend it’s as good as the real deal because the ovens they use are not what we have in our home kitchens.
The spice blend is flavorful but not too spicy, and will definitely bring something new and exciting to your table. If you can get the dressing together in the morning, it makes a great weeknight dinner with the bonus of easy cleanup.
2-3 packages of chicken thighs (10-14 pieces)
1 cup of vegan yogurt
2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons of fresh ginger, chopped or powdered
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons of oil with a high smoke point; Do not use olive oil
1 tablespoon of garam masala spice mix
2 teaspoons of paprika. Do not substitute hot or smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (double the amount if you want more heat)
Measure out all of the dry spices and put them together in a small bowl.
Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat for about a minute. Don’t let the oil get too hot, or it will burn the spices.
Add all the spices at once to the skillet, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes, until the mixture is fragrant. This brings out the aromatic notes of the spices, which is what Indian food is famous for.
Take the pot off the heat and set it aside.
Chop the peeled garlic and ginger. Fresh ginger is very fibrous, and it’s easiest to use a microplane to grate it, or simply crush it in a mortar and pestle if you don’t feel like chopping it with a knife.
Add 1 cup of vegan yogurt to a large bowl and mix in the fresh lemon juice, garlic, ginger, and salt.
It takes about 10 minutes for the spice mixture to cool. Once cool enough to handle, use a rubber spatula to scrape each bit of oil and seasoning into the large bowl and mix well.
I wear disposable gloves for the next portion. Using a sharp knife, cut 2 or 3 deep diagonal slits on one side of each chicken leg, close to the bone.
Add the chicken to the bowl of yogurt. The cuts ensure that the seasoning really gets into the meat. You can remove the chicken skin if you prefer; The marinade will help the chicken stay tender.
Mix well, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator for 6-8 hours.
When it’s time for dinner, set the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, line a tray with tin foil or parchment paper, and place a metal cooling rack (the kind you cool cakes and cookies on) on top of the tray.
This creates a grill effect in the oven. The smaller rack will fit directly over the pan, but you can use a larger rack—just be sure to support the bottom tray when you put it in and take it out of the oven.
If you’ve roasted fresh liver, it’s the same method: the chicken sits on the top rack, and the bottom pan catches the mess. If your grate is slightly larger than the pan, make sure that the chicken pieces do not fit over the edges of the grate or the cooking juices will drain into the oven and make a big mess.
Place oven rack on rack closest to grill; In my oven, this is the highest slot I can fit the rack into.
Place each piece of chicken on the top rack, leaving a few inches between each piece. This is the best way to get grilled flavor while cooking indoors.
Take any remaining yogurt from the bowl and spoon it over the top of the chicken pieces, spreading it over the chicken so that there is a thick layer on the top and sides.
Roast for 20-22 minutes, until the meat reaches 165°F on a thermometer.
I cook the chicken for about 25 minutes, but you can cook it to your liking; Make sure there are some charred spots on the chicken.
Remove from oven and serve immediately.
This pairs well with steamed rice and/or lentils. You can make a quick raita (yogurt and cucumber) by squeezing water out of a cup of grated cucumber and adding it to the remaining yogurt along with some lemon juice, a teaspoon of dried mint, a sprinkle of salt and cumin. This isn’t an authentic raita, but it’s close enough and makes a great addition to the chicken condiment while using up the rest of the yogurt.
Garnish with sliced scallions or chopped fresh cilantro, and serve with a few extra slices of lime for those who like a little zing—like me!
an experience! This is a great recipe, but if you want more spice or less than another, adjust it to your taste. Enjoy and bless your hands! PJC
Jessica Gran is a home cook who lives in Pittsburgh.