Tandoor ovens, perhaps best known for their role in cooking naan and tandoori chicken and fish, are a mainstay in Indian and Pakistani homes and restaurants. They get extremely hot and are used to quickly cook food, often charring it a bit in the most pleasant of ways.
I don’t have one in my tiny apartment kitchen, but that’s never stopped me from making my own naan, and, feeling inspired by some delicious Pakistani food I had recently, I decided to put a tandoor spin on roast chicken.
I’m a big fan of roasting chicken at a very high heat, yielding a crisp skin and tender, juicy interior. Since this is in a similar vicinity as tandoor, cooking, I figured that if I applied tandoori flavors to chicken legs before roasting them at a high heat, I could get a similar result to traditional tandoori chicken. Though the skin is typically removed before roasting in the case of tandoori chicken (and you can feel free to do so if you prefer), I decided to leave it on, because as far as I am concerned, crispy chicken skin is the new bacon.
I started by making a marinade of spices (look for these in Indian specialty grocery stores, such as Punjab Groceries and Halal Meat in Waverly—they’re amazingly cheap when you buy them in bulk) and yogurt (regular whole-milk yogurt, Greek yogurt, plain soy yogurt, or plain coconut-milk yogurt all will work), which my chicken legs bathed in overnight (though you can still get delicious chicken if you only have an hour to marinate).
After tenderizing (the calcium in the yogurt activates enzymes in the meat which breaks down the protein, keeping it ultra-juicy after cooking), the chicken and onions get roasted, just like with regular baked chicken, and that’s when the magic happens. The spices impart a deep, dark red color, the skin crisps, and the onions get all charred and roasty.
The lemons and cilantro aren’t required, but they do add an amazing pop of freshness. Serve this one with homemade naan and a crisp green salad or slaw.
1 tablespoon paprika 36 cents for 1 ounce
1 tablespoon ground cumin 36 cents for 1 ounce
1 tablespoon garam masala 43 cents for 1 ounce
1 tablespoon salt pantry
1 teaspoon ground cardamom $1.71 for 1 ounce
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper $2.48 for 1 ounce
8 ounces plain yogurt (dairy, soy, or coconut all work) $1.50
3 cloves garlic, minced pantry
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced $0.50
2 whole, bone-in, skin-on chicken legs, cut into 2 drumsticks and 2 thighs $6
½ red onion, cut into eighths $0.50
Estimated total cost of ingredients: $14
In a mixing bowl, combine the spices, salt, and yogurt. Mix well to combine.
Combine the chicken and onions with the yogurt mixture in an air-tight storage container or a zip-top bag. Make sure the yogurt covers every piece of chicken.
Let marinate for at least an hour (and up to 12 hours).
Preheat the oven to 450 F.
Line a baking sheet with foil.
Arrange the marinated chicken and onions on the baking sheet, making sure to leave space between each piece of chicken.
Roast for 27-30 minutes, until the chicken is slightly blackened on the outside and the meat is tender on the inside.
Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Serve hot, with chopped cilantro and lemon wedges, if desired.
Recipe serves 2-3.
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