Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Dutch Oven Tandoori Chicken

This is one of those times when you know you’re not going to get it right, but you also know that you can get it good.  I saw this recipe online for doing tandoori chicken in a regular oven.  I knew that it doesn’t really work the same.  A Tandoor is a very specialized kind of oven with very high dry heat.  You marinate your whole chicken in spices and then skewer it and stick it down the throat of this round, tapered clay oven.  A home oven just won’t do it authentically.

But then, I realize that it might not be true, authentic tandoori chicken, but the spices will still glaze on the chicken and it will still taste great.

Once I’d lost the worry about authenticity, it was an easy mental jump to do it in the Dutch oven.  There was one problem, however: the dry heat.  In order for the marinade to glaze on, I would need very high and dry heat.  I’ve done that a lot of times with the “lifted lid” or “dry roasting” technique. So, we’re good to go!

I did two whole chickens, but the marinade could be halved to make just one.

Dutch Oven Tandoori Chicken

12” deep Dutch oven

Phase one: roasting
12-14 coals below
14-16 coals above

Phase two: dry roasting
12-14 coals below
24-28 coals above

8” Dutch oven
10-12 coals below

2x medium roasting chickens, whole, no neck or giblets


1 cup plain yogurt
1 6 oz can tomato paste
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp hot chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp garlic powder
salt
pepper

2-3 medium yellow onions
2-3 lemons

13.5 oz can coconut milk
1 Tbsp corn starch or flour


The first task is the marinade, and I did that the night before.  I simply mixed the yogurt and all of the spices and flavorings of the second set of ingredients in a bowl.   Then,  I opened up the chicken bags, drained them and patted them dry.  I also pulled out the neck and giblets.  I got out a sharp slicing knife and made some cuts across the breast and the thighs and legs.  This is so that the marinade can get down under the skin and even more into the meat.

I saved the big plastic bag that the two chickens had come in, and put them back in, pouring all of the yogurt and spices on top.  I worked the bag so that the marinade covered all of the surfaces of the chicken.  You could just put it in bowl and rub it all over, finally covering it with plastic wrap.  Coating the marinade on the chicken is a very, very messy task.

I put the coated chicken back in the fridge overnight.

When  the time came to start cooking, I lit up some coals, and got out my 12” deep.  At first, I was a little concerned that the chickens might not fit, and that I’d have to use a 14”.  In the end, it was fine.

I halved each onion and then quartered each half, and tossed the wedges into the bottom of the Dutch oven.  I did the same to the lemons and stirred them around.  These would not only add flavor to the eventual gravy, but would also lift the chicken up above the juices.

I set the marinated chickens (again, what a mess) onto the onions and lemons.  As an afterthought, it might be cool to stuff an additional cut lemon and onion into the body cavity of each chicken.  Had I thought of it, and had it not been so messy, I might have.  At any rate, I tucked the chickens in snugly next to each other and took the Dutch oven out to the coals.

Phase one of the cooking is just basic roasting.  I let it roast for about an hour, or until the chickens came up to about 160°F internal temperature.  Almost done, but not quite.  I replenished the coals a couple of times, as it was quite a breezy day.

Then, in phase two of the cooking, I did the dry roasting.  I opened up the lid, and first extracted the juices on the bottom with a poultry baster.  The juices, I put into my 8” Dutch oven.

I set my Dutch oven up to do dry roasting.  This is basically having something that raises the lid a bit so that the moisture can escape.  I have a circular grill grid that’s just a little larger than 12” and it fits very nicely over my Dutch ovens. There are other things you can use, like nails bent into the shape of a “U” and hooked over the rim of the oven.  Whatever raises the lid a little bit.

Since the moisture is no longer trapped, the heat isn’t trapped, either, so you need to use a lot more coals.  So, once the lid is back on and sitting on the lifters, pack the coals on it!

I like to cook chicken and turkey to about 175°F or 180°F.  While that was cooking, I put some coals under my 8” Dutch oven and started simmering the juices.  I added the coconut milk, and let that simmer and reduce some.  In the end I added some starch whisked in water to thicken it up as well.

When it was all done, I had also made some rice and heated up some green beans for the full meal. I carved it up and served it.  It still was quite moist, not as dry as I thought it would be.  It truly wasn’t an authentic tandoori chicken, as I said, but it was delicious!


Mark has discovered a love of Dutch Oven Cooking. Mark also has other sites and blogs, including MarkHansenMusic.com and his MoBoy blog.

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