This whole roasted chicken spiced liberally with Indian tandoori masala turns out juicy, succulent and absolutely delicious. An entree worthy of your Thanksgiving or Christmas gathering.
Tandoori chicken is probably THE most familiar Indian food around the world. It is unclear exactly how and when this Indian version of roast meat gained the popularity that it enjoys now. Marinated in a mix of yogurt and spices, roasted in a super hot clay oven (the tandoor), tandoori meat is smoky, spicy and succulent.
Though regular households do not own a tandoor oven, the signature tandoori marinade is pretty easy to replicate. Thus marinated, the meat can be cooked in an open grill (preferably over charcoal) or simply in a super hot oven.
Whether you are a purist who believes that authentic tandoori chicken can only be prepared in a tandoor oven or whether you feel that one should go ahead with the resources at one’s disposal, there is no denying that the key to good whole roasted tandoori chicken is actually the marinade.
The marinade proceeds in two steps. A quick first marinade with a few spices, salt and a tenderizer (like lemon juice or vinegar), followed by an overnight marinade of yogurt, oil and more spices and herbs is what makes this roasted chicken irresistible. You must plan ahead to account for this overnight marination so that all the good flavors have enough time to permeate the chicken meat, thus making it delicious and flavorful, not to mention, tender and succulent.
While traditional tandoori chicken is usually made with skinless leg quarters, the recipe works perfectly well for a whole roasted chicken with the skin on. If nothing, the spices actually makes for an effortlessly crispy, crackling skin on the chicken.
This is exactly what I decided on as the main course for our Thanksgiving dinner this year. This whole roasted chicken was the star of our Indo-American Thanksgiving meal. Come to think of it, this would work quite well for a Holiday or Christmas luncheon too. Just give yourself a couple of days for the marination. Pay attention to this one detail and you will end up with perfectly juicy, Indian spiced roast chicken. Pair it with Indian or American side dishes. We went for homemade naan breads, mashed potatoes (the hubby’s specialty), green beans and a variety of sauces and chutneys. Tandoori chicken is usually served with crunchy red onion slices, lots of chopped cilantro leaves, lemon wedges for squeezing on top and a cool, minty yogurt sauce for dipping. I added a bunch of diced potatoes under the bird while roasting to make tandoor roasted potatoes of sorts. So good!
Another unique thing about tandoori chicken is its deep red-orange color. Usually, this is achieved in restaurants by adding food color (which ends up looking very fake), but if you can hunt down good quality Kashmiri red chili powder, you will get this deep color without adding too much heat. Or add a few drops of good quality food color, just for appearances sake.
Here’s how I made our Thanksgiving roast chicken.
- Whole chicken - 3.5 - 4 lbs
- Lemon juice - 2 tbsp, freshly squeezed
- Turmeric powder - ½ tsp
- Kashmiri red chili powder - 2 tsp
- Ginger-garlic paste - 2 tsp
- Salt - ½ tsp
- Thick yogurt - ½ cup
- Oil - ¼ cup (see Notes)
- Red chili powder - 1-2 tbsp (as per heat desired)
- Cumin powder - 1 tsp
- Garam masala powder - 1 tbsp
- Ginger-garlic paste - 2 tbsp
- Mint leaves - 1 tbsp, finely chopped
- Salt - 1 tsp (or to taste)
- Red or orange food color - 1-2 drops, optional
- Red onion - 1, cut into thick rounds
- Potato - 1 large, diced
- Lemon - 1, quartered
- Garlic - 5-6 cloves, crushed
- Butter - 2 tbsp, melted
- Red onion - chopped or thinly sliced
- Lemon wedges
- Cilantro leaves
- Mint yogurt sauce (see Notes for quick recipe)
- Naan breads, rice, etc
- Remove innards from the chicken's body cavity. Use it in another recipe or discard. Wash chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Make tiny score marks all over the chicken with the tip of your knife. This is done to allow the spices to permeate the meat better.
- Mix the first marinade ingredients and apply all over the chicken. Place chicken in a large covered bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or even overnight.
- Mix the second marinade ingredients in a mixing bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Dump the marinade over the chicken. Use your fingers to evenly apply this marinade all over the chicken and inside the cavity too. Gently lift the skin at the edges and use your fingers to smear this marinade liberally under the skin as well. Massage and get the marinade all over that bird!
- Cover and refrigerate overnight. Do not skip this step.
- Remove chicken from refrigerator 30-45 minutes before roasting so that it has time to get to room temperature.
- Pre-heat oven to 400 deg.F. Line a large baking pan with foil or parchment paper.
- Line the pan with thick-cut onion rings and diced potatoes. Pour a bit of the marinade that the chicken is resting in over the potatoes.
- Stuff the chicken cavity with lemon, garlic and any extra red onion slices. Place the chicken breast-side down in the pan and brush the melted butter on top.
- Bake for 30 minutes. Remove pan from oven and gently turn the chicken over so that the breast-side is now facing upwards. Baste with the juices collected at the bottom of the pan.
- Return to oven and bake for 1 hour, basting with pan juices every 20 minutes. Bake chicken till internal temperature reads 165 deg.F or till juices run clear when poked near the thigh bone. Total bake time will be roughly 20 minutes per pound of chicken.
- Turn oven to broil setting and broil the chicken for 1-2 minutes till skin is lightly charred.
- Remove from oven and rest the chicken for at least 30 minutes before carving.
- Serve with chopped red onions, lemon wedges, cilantro leaves, mint-yogurt sauce, pan-roasted potatoes and naan breads or rice.
2. Mint yogurt sauce: Blend together ½ cup mint leaves in 1 cup of thick yogurt. Add salt to taste. If you do not have mint leaves, use cilantro.
3. Please note that the prep time doesn't reflect the inactive marination times.
Enjoy this juicy, delicious whole roasted tandoori chicken, prepared right in the comfort of your kitchen!
Here is our bird occupying the prime spot on our Thanksgiving table this year. I am adding this recipe to my #ChristmasRecipeSeries because this recipe will work perfectly as a Christmas roast chicken too. Or better yet, don’t wait for special occasions, and make it this weekend as a little treat for your family!
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Do you like restaurant style tandoori chicken? Ever wondered if you can pull it off at home? With this recipe, now you can! Do try it and let me know how it goes.
Want more Holiday recipes? Check out this page for all recipes under #ChristmasRecipeSeries.
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