I never thought I'd actually say this, but its official. I am suffering post holiday blues. Aditi started school again this week, and for a change, I get to relax a bit at home, but suddenly the house is quieter and lonelier and the blues are really settling in. Its been hard to do anything, including scraping myself out of bed in the mornings, when all I want to do is gag the cat and snuggle down into my duvet.
So what do I do to combat this?
Well, for starters, I watch a lot of funny cat videos (ha, bet you weren't expecting that :)) And then I cook food that reminds me of the warm tropical breezes of India and my home. This tandoori chicken dish is a Indian classic, and rightly so. Chicken drumsticks are marinated in warm, fragrant spices and yogurt that tenderises them, and then grilled in a tandoor to make a mouthwatering appetizer, or if you're anything like me, a whole meal. Oh, and by the way, did you know that India is one of the countries that has a very high consumption of chicken drumsticks? So much so, that the breasts are exported, while the drumsticks are sold domestically. That was a funny piece of info I came across during my endless quest for useless knowledge :)
A tandoor, or an outdoor clay oven is traditionally used to make tandoori chicken, along with other delicacies like naan or tandoori roti. A distinct lack of one of those means that I have had to improvise to get that charred, tandoori flavour. If this was summertime, these drumsticks would go straight on to a barbeque on the deck, but again, the masses of snow on said deck made that an impossibility as well. So I ended up making these in a very hot oven in my trusty Microstoven baking dish, probably one of the best pieces of baking equipment I own (PS - this is not a sponsored post, I bought this dish on sale from Sears last year, and I've just been really impressed with how well it works for recipes like this one) Using this baking dish actually gave me the charred taste without the hassle of having to scrub it after.
Tandoori chicken is an Indian classic for a reason. No Indian celebration is complete without mounds of these tasty, delicately spiced, grilled chicken pieces, nestled in cucumber and tomato slices, sprinkled over with cilantro and with lemon or lime slices beside them to squeeze over. Traditionally tandoori chicken is served with a yogurt raita and a mint/ chutney, which adds another level of freshness and flavour to this simple, elegant dish. I like to keep it simple and serve it with just plain yogurt that I season with a little salt, pepper, cayenne and a squeeze of lemon juice. But you can easily go all out on the dips as well, and most Indian households certainly do.
I ate a lot of tandoori chicken when I was at university. Almost every little shack on campus served this dish, and it was a popular choice at parties and get-togethers. Ocasionally we would even be lucky enough to get some in our residence dining halls, and those were the days the food halls were pretty packed. But pretty much every Indian roadside dhaba and posh restaurant does these treats, and its truly a unifying dish for North and South Indians, and of course, any Indian restaurant worth their salt will do this dish out here in Canada as well :) Much like butter chicken is, in a way, I suppose.
I like using my homemade tandoori masala spice mix and garam masala for this dish and I really like the fragrance of my spice blends, but there is absolutely no reason why you can't use shop bought. A note of caution though, store bought tandoori masalas almost always have salt in them, so you'll need to adjust the salt in this recipe. But if you do have the time and inclination, make your own spice mixes, because the difference is really something else.
I also don't use red food colouring in my chicken, as I really feel that it doesn't need it at all. If you want the chicken pieces to be a bit redder, then I suggest adding some unsmoked paprika to the marinade which adds the colour without spice.
4 - 6 chicken drumsticks, ideally skin on
1 - 2 tablespoons unscented oil
½ cup plain yogurt
4 tablespoons tandoori masala (try my homemade tandoori masala spice mix)
1 teaspoon Kashmiri chilli powder (optional)
1 tablespoon unscented oil
1 clove of garlic, crushed
½ inch piece of ginger, grated
1 teaspoon garam masala (homemade is delicious)
Juice of ½ lemon
Salt to taste
Yogurt Raita (plain yogurt, chopped cucumber, chopped cilantro and salt to taste) or Mint Chutney
Whisk together all the ingredients for the marinade, adding the chilli powder, if using. Rub into the chicken pieces and marinate for at least 4 hours, or ideally overnight, in the refrigerator. You can also place the pieces in a ziplock bag and freeze for future use, thaw before cooking.
When ready to make the tandoori chicken, preheat oven to 450 F.
Take out marinated chicken, and bring to room temperature.
Brush a heavy baking tray with about 1 - 2 tablespoons oil, then arrange the drumsticks in a single layer. Bake for about 20 - 25 minutes, depending on the size of your drumsticks, turning once or twice, or until cooked through.
Alternatively, barbeque for between 15 - 20 minutes, depending on the size of the drumsticks, until cooked through.
Serve with lemon slices, yogurt raita or mint chutney.