Love At First Bite

In this Grilled Tandoori-Style Chicken Thighs recipe, the combination of the yogurt, the natural juices of the meat and the intense heat created by the fire, ensures that the natural fats of the meat are sealed within the meat immediately. This creates a nice flavor without having to use or add external fats such as butter or oils.

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What is Tandoori cooking? Contrary to common belief, many people think that the word “tandoori” refers to a recipe, yet it can be better described as method of cooking. A tandoor is a clay oven large enough to hold a small fire created by slow burning wood or charcoal.

The marinade used in almost any tandoori dish starts with yogurt, as does this recipe. While this might sound a little strange, this is actually perfect for marinating meats because yogurt has a natural acidity and it is thick so it surrounds and holds to the meat well and keeps the herbs and spices in place.

In addition to the colors provided by the spices, tandoori marinades are also flavored traditionally with ginger, garlic, coriander powder, cayenne pepper, and garam masala. Garam masala, although not used here, is a combination of roasted and ground cardamom, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and black pepper.

After you have combined the spices and yogurt to your liking, immerse the meat into it. You want the meat to sit in this thick marinade preferably for several hours to absorb the flavors. Once the marinading is done, turn on your grill to full power. Remember that tandoori is cooked at very high temperatures and your barbeque grill will do the job perfectly. Get your grill as hot as you can and keep it closed as much as possible.

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To accompany our chicken entrée, which was love at first bite BTW, we made a Citrusy-Spiced Couscous with Avocado. Cook your couscous according to package directions. Once cooled and fluffed, stir in chopped sections of one orange, 1/4 cup of minced red onion, 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro and the zest of half an orange.

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Make a dressing from the juice of half an orange, 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Toss all ingredients well. Dice a whole ripe avocado and fold into couscous mix. Serve warm or at room temperature. We had some chicken leftover so we chopped it up and tossed it with the remaining couscous salad, which made for fabulous lunches the next day!

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 Tbs. ground cumin
  • 1-1/2 tsp. curry powder
  • 1-1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne, adjust to suit your heat tolerance
  • 2 Tbs. vegetable oil; more for the grill
  • 3 Tbs. red-wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup regular or nonfat plain yogurt
  • 2-1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 8 large, 10 medium, or 12 small), trimmed of excess fat
  • 3 Tbs. chopped cilantro

Directions

  • Mix the cumin, curry powder, salt, garlic powder, ginger, and cayenne in a medium bowl. Heat the oil in an 8-inch skillet over low heat.
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  • Stir the spices into the oil and heat until they bubble and become fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds. Return the spice blend to the bowl and stir in the vinegar and then the yogurt.
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  • Add the chicken thighs and toss to coat evenly. Let sit 10 minutes or cover and marinate in the refrigerator for up to 12 hours. (We marinated in a ziploc for 2 hours)
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  • When ready to cook, prepare a hot charcoal fire or heat a gas grill with all burners on medium high for 10 minutes. Clean the hot grate with a wire brush and then lubricate it with an oil-soaked paper towel.
  • Put the chicken on the grate and grill (covered on a gas grill or uncovered over a charcoal fire) until one side has dark grill marks, 5 to 6 minutes for large thighs or 4 to 5minutes for medium and small thighs.
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  • Turn and continue to grill until well marked on the other sides and cooked through, 5 to 6 min. longer for large thighs or 4 to 5 minutes for medium and small thighs. Move the thighs to a platter and let rest 4 to 5 minutes Sprinkle with chopped cilantro before serving.
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To prepare as kebabs:

Trim the thighs and then slice them lengthwise into 1-1/2- to 2-inch-wide strips. Toss with the flavorings; then thread the chicken onto six 8- or 12-inch skewers (soak wood skewers in water for at least 20 minutes first), folding each strip in half as you skewer it. If some strips are very thick, cut them in half crosswise rather than folding them so that all the pieces of chicken are roughly the same size. Grill the kebabs, turning them every 4 to 5 minutes as dark grill marks form, until cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes total.

By Pamela Anderson (no, not the Baywatch Babe)

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