Thursday, September 11, 2014

Tandoori Masala Chicken



"It's fun to get together and have something good to eat at least once a day. That's what human life is all about - enjoying things."
(~Julia Child)

"At least once a day," is indeed good, but twice a day is how we enjoyed it...of course I'm talking about lunch and dinner! Fortunately, we all (hubby, kids and I) came home at almost the same time, and ate together. It is true. Julia said it right. I know, because I miss those lunches and dinners even today! And that speaks for itself. 


Inspite of the fact that I was working too, the table would be laid properly and meals served with the little extra touches in place. It was the best time of our busy days. With hubby out so often on tours, this was quality time spent with the kids everyday, as we tucked into our food. Conversation and chatter (me mostly!); sharing funnies, highs, and lows...just sharing time over a leisurely meal; no rush at lunch or dinner...miss it like mad.

Anyways, enough of that and fast forward to the present. The other day I felt like doing something with chicken, but I wasn't so sure what! So, as I do at these times of uncertainty, I went ahead and followed my imagination and tastebuds. I had boneless chicken thighs which I marinated in tandoori masala. Kept it in the refrigerator. First thought: okay, tandoori nights tomorrow! But when tomorrow came, things changed amazingly. I had a fantastic idea...tweaking the bhagara baingan masala to make my tandoori chicken! It was an amazing dish; finger-licking good. Look up Bhagara Baingan too. It's yummy!  http://chef-on-the-run.blogspot.com/2014/01/bhagara-baingan-narm-paratha.html


Ingredients

Chicken boneless thighs.................................................................1 kg

For Marination

Cumin powder...............................................................................1 tsp
Tandoori masala, (I used ready-made).............................................2 n 1/2 tsps, slightly heaped
Anardana (pomegranate seeds).....................................................1 tsp, powdered fine
Salt to taste
EVOO.............................................................................................2 tbsps (extra virgin olive oil)

Keep marinated chicken overnight for best results. Otherwise keep for at least 5 hrs.

For Masala

Onion........................................................................................1, large, sliced
Onion (small)............................................................................1, chopped into tiny pieces
Tomato puree............................................................................100-125 gms, no-spice puree
Garlic........................................................................................6-7 cloves
Coriander seeds........................................................................2 level tbsps
Green cardamom......................................................................6-7
Cloves.......................................................................................5
Cinnamon sticks........................................................................2-3, 1 n 1/2" long
Turmeric....................................................................................1/4 tsp
Pepper corns.............................................................................1 tsp
Whole dried red chilli................................................................1-2, or acc to taste
Bay leaf......................................................................................3 small ones
Tamarind seedless.....................................................................1/2 a pingpong ball size, soak in 3/4 cup water
Brown sugar..............................................................................2-3 tsps
Milk (optional)..........................................................................4-5 tbsps
Ghee..........................................................................................2 tbsps, unmelted or 4 tbsps melted
EVOO
Salt to taste


Heat about 2 tbsps oil in a non stick pan. Add the coriander seeds, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, pepper corns, whole red chillies. Stir for a couple of seconds and add the sliced large onion. Roast until the onions become limp, change colour, but are not browned. Remove from stove.


Grind the roasted masala, along with the garlic, into a fine paste in a mixer. Add a wee bit of water at a time while grinding, until it is a thickish, finely ground masala. Remove the ground spices from the mixer jar. Use 1 cup of water to make a masala-wash, by pouring it into the jar and swirling it around to gather all that's left stuck to the sides and bottom. Keep aside.

Now time to get to the chicken!
Heat enough oil in a deep non-stick pan.
Drop in the marinated chicken pieces. They should be submerged to about 3/4 in oil.
Turn over twice so both sides are mildly browned. But the chicken is not fully cooked.
The tandoori chicken pieces should be only three-fourths cooked.
Remove from oil and do not place on absorbent paper. As the chicken is not thoroughly cooked, it will release its juices as it stands. We need to use those juices too. So put them in a plate, bowl or any dish that will keep the liquid in.

Heat about 4 tbsps of oil. Use some of the oil you fried the chicken in, strained, to remove any remnants of chicken.

Add the bay leaves, and the chopped onions. Stir fry until they are mottled with brown and not totally brown.

Add the ground spices and turmeric. Stir into the onions. Continue to stir fry on medium heat until it thickens further and reduces, to some extent, in quantity.

Now put in the tomato puree.  Stir into the spices to meld. Add salt but keep it low. You have salt in the chicken too. Cook, stirring for about half a minute to make sure it is mixed in well.

Time to pour in the masala-wash. One more good stir. Cover and continue cooking on medium heat until the masala thickens. Keep tabs on it, so it doesn't burn at the bottom of the pan.

Add the sugar and tamarind water. mix well. Keep the tamarind, just in case you need to use it. Check for balance of flavours. It should have just a hint of sweetness balanced with the mildly tangy tamarind. You can add more of either. Just add a bit of water to the tamarind and mash it with your hands. Use the water.

Continue cooking on medium heat, stirring from time to time.

When it starts to thicken, add the ghee and continue to 'bhuno.'

At this point, if you are opting for milk, add the milk and continue the bhuno process until the masala is a nice brown, without burning. You don't want burned brown!!

This is when the chicken along with all the juices that have flowed out, is to be added to the masala.

Mix it in well, so all the pieces of chicken are coated.

Add 1 cup of water, mix, cover and simmer on low heat for about 15-20 minutes.

By now the chicken and masala base will be amalgamated into one divine dish!

Check once more for salt. Then remove from stove and serve hot, garnished with green coriander chopped fine.

Goes very well with hot naans/rotis/and even lightly toasted, buttered pao (pan)

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