Tandoori Chicken (Or Salmon)
45 minutes, plus time for preheating and marinating
You cannot make “authentic” tandoori chicken without a tandoor, the clay oven closely associated with Indian cooking and used to make many of that country’s wonderful breads. But, believe it or not, most people (myself included) don’t own a clay oven, so we have to find a workaround. Turns out you can replicate the seasonings and grill or broil it so that it becomes very similar to the original. It isn’t difficult, and it’s really rewarding.
Most tandoori chicken gets its bright red color from food coloring (the salmon pictured here has a dash), but some cooks use a mild chile powder or a healthy dose of paprika, and that’s what I do here. Once you throw the marinade together you can really use it on almost anything (tofu, beef, lamb, pork, fish, shrimp, cauliflower steaks, and so on). It’s particularly nice on salmon; see the variation.
1 chicken, 3 to 4 pounds, cut into serving pieces, or 2 1 ⁄ 2 to 3 pounds chicken parts, trimmed of excess fat
1 cup yogurt
1 tablespoon garam masala or curry powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 ⁄ 2 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste (less if your curry powder is strong)
Salt to taste
1. Remove the skin from the chicken and make diagonal slashes in the flesh, right down to the bone. Combine all the remaining ingredients in a large bowl or roasting pan and marinate the chicken in this mixture in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours or as long as overnight.
2. When you’re ready to cook, start a charcoal or gas grill or preheat the broiler. The heat should be only moderate (the fire should be past its peak if you’re using charcoal) and the rack 4 to 6 inches from the heat source. Grill or broil the chicken, turning each piece as it browns—you’ll probably turn it several times during cooking—until done (there will be no traces of blood, which will be easy to see thanks to the gashes in the flesh), 20 to 30 minutes. Serve hot.
Instead of the chicken, use a salmon fillet (1 1/2 to 2 pounds for four people is usually good). Put the salmon in an ovenproof skillet or roasting pan, rub a thick layer of the tandoori paste all over the flesh side, and marinate in the fridge for up to an hour. (If there’s extra marinade, I like to just spoon it around the edges of the fish, let it broil alongside it, and spoon the drippings over cooked rice.) Broil the salmon, flesh-side up, until the surface bubbles and browns (some lightly charred black spots are ideal). Depending on the thickness of the fish and the strength of your broiler, the salmon may or may not be done at this point. To see whether the fish is done, stick a paring knife between the layers of flesh; the center should be bright pink and still a little translucent. If it needs more cooking time, turn the oven to 475 degrees and let the salmon roast until it’s done.