I was like a kid walking down the aisles of Kalustyan’s, the specialty food store in Curry Hill here in New York City. I found myself subtracting from my cart when it was time to pay for my purchases because I got carried away and bought spices I knew I already had at home.
I buy my oriental spices from Asia Food and Market in Chinatown, but Kalustyan’s carries more of the South Asian and Mediterranean ingredients that are not well-stocked downtown. I picked up some powdered lemongrass and dried curry leaves for my signature dishes, but I also bought new stashes of spice I regularly use like cumin, cinnamon and turmeric. I like buying them whole because I find great pleasure in grinding them by hand using my mortar and pestle and lining them up as I do my mise en place before cooking.
I chose to do tandoori chicken after a good night of eating Bangladeshi food one night last week. We skipped the usual suspects of tandoori and brown curries and opted to try dishes I’ve never seen before that came in all shades of yellow. While eating, we noticed that we were eating the same food that the taxi drivers were enjoying. I wondered out loud why they would even have tandoori chicken on the menu if no one ordered it. I know it’s probably for the diners who want to see something familiar so that the other dishes don’t sound too intimidating. The next day, I thought I’d made my own chicken tandoori just to see if it’s really an easy recipe to do at home. It is and so you might not see me paying for tandoori any time soon.
4 pieces of chicken legs, 3 pieces of chicken breasts
1 cup whole milk plain yogurt
a pinch of saffron threads, soaked in 2 tbsps hot water
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp hot paprika
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp chili powder
1 small knob ginger, peeled, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
oil, salt, pepper
1. Using a sharp knife, score the chicken flesh, each piece slashed two or three times. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper and transfer to a glass baking dish.
2. Combine all the spices in a bowl with the ginger and garlic. Add the saffron including the hot water and mix everything together. Massage the spice marinade on the chicken, enough to evenly coat every nook and cranny. Using a spatula, spread yogurt all over the spiced chicken pieces. Cover the glass dish and refrigerate for several hours up to overnight.
3. When ready to cook, heat a frying pan with some oil. In the meantime, preheat oven 350º. Remove the chicken pieces from the baking dish and fry them until brown on one side. (I scraped off most of the yogurt and removed the larger ginger and garlic pieces.) Turn and fry until browned on the other side. Transfer to a new baking dish and cook in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Squeeze some lemon juice on them before serving.