I’ll never forget having tandoor chicken for the first time.
I was living in Southern California, my first foray into life outside the rural Midwest, where Indian restaurants had not yet opened, at least not in a 100-mile vicinity of my small hometown.
While living in San Diego for an internship at the local NPR station, my uncle took me to a place that specialized in tandoori chicken. He pointed out the cylindrical ovens called tandoors as soon as we walked in, and I remember being super impressed when the cooks slapped the naan bread on the side to cook. But then it came time to tear into that bright orange tandoori chicken, and I entered into a new phase of loving and appreciating just how flavorful chicken could be.
This recipe, from “Paleo Monday to Friday: A Diet So Good You Can Take the Weekend Off” by Daniel Green (Kyle Books, $22.95), is a good starting place for home cooks who want to try to recreate that flavor at home. You can find some fun videos online about how to make a tandoor oven at home, but this method uses a regular oven. I would marinade the chicken in the coconut milk and spices for at least a few hours to fully infuse the meat with flavor, but in a hurry, especially on a weeknight, Green’s basting method is fine.
1 large (3 1/2-lb.) chicken
1 lemon, quartered
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup light coconut milk
1 tsp. cumin
1 1/2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. garam masala
4 garlic cloves, crushed
For the salad:
7 oz. (about 5 cups) arugula
A handful of fresh cilantro
A handful of fresh mint
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the chicken in a roasting pan and place the lemon quarters inside the bird. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
Place all the remaining ingredients in a bowl and mix together well. Divide this spice mix in half and set one half aside.
Baste the chicken thoroughly all over with half the marinade, then roast in the oven for 45 minutes, then remove the bird from the oven and baste all over again with the remaining marinade, and then roast for a further 45 minutes or until the thigh juices run clear when tested with a skewer.
Serve the chicken with a fresh green herb salad of arugula, cilantro and mint. Serves 4.
— From “Paleo Monday to Friday: A Diet So Good You Can Take the Weekend Off” by Daniel Green (Kyle Books, $22.95)