To say that Mr. B and I take the untraditional approach when it comes to holidays is an understatement. I’ve spent many Thanksgivings eating in Chinese restaurants or greasy diners. One Christmas after watching the surfers paddle out into the ocean, we found a bar with a waterfront view and enjoyed a few beers and a couple dozen oysters. It’s not that we don’t like the idea of tradition, but for some reason, holidays always seem to collide with our plans to do something else.
So, it was no surprise that this past 4th of July while Joey Chestnut was breaking his own hotdog eating record and millions of Americans were packing picnic baskets, we were planning on using a cast iron Dutch oven and our BBQ to cook up some delicious Tandoori style chicken.
Admittedly, when Mr. B first told me about his idea, my gut reaction was to shut all of the windows to prevent the heavy smoke from flooding the house and hide out inside until the smoke cleared and the neighbors quit threatening to call the fire department. We’ve been down this road before with Mr. B’s extreme cooking techniques—I once watched him attempt a lobster bisque with a full-sized blow torch.
We parted ways shortly after he gave me an update that the BBQ was cranked up to 500º and that the chicken should be ready in an hour or so. I tried to distract myself with reality television, but I was curious to see how his technique was working out, so I decided to casually check up on him.
I opened the door and emerged into the hot summer day and it felt as if I had stepped into India. The air was deeply fragrant, perfumed with exotic spices. Great billows of smoke were spilling from the closed BBQ, but Mr. B was no where to be found. I called out for him, as if engaging in some childish game of Marco Polo, but there was no answer. After a brief search, I found him in the pool, floating on a raft, deep in the grasp of an afternoon nap. Clearly, the man had thrown all caution to the wind.
I cleared my throat. “Don’t you think that chicken is going to burn?” I asked. He slipped from a dream and looked at me through half-closed eyes. “It smells good, doesn’t it?” he asked. “I think you should check on it, ” I said and went back inside to rifle through the refrigerator for Plan B. Shortly, Mr. B came into the kitchen, clutching two pot holders and dripping water. “You’re never going to believe this,” he said. “You have to come and see it.”
I knew he was going to show me a pile of burnt chicken, but when he lifted the lid to reveal the most incredibly perfect, crisp-skinned, golden chicken pieces, my heart fluttered with excitement. Later, when we finally sat down to eat and I couldn’t stop marveling at the chicken’s deliciousness, Mr. B, never one to hold a grudge, smiled at me and said, “How could you have ever doubted me?”
Mr. B’s Tandoori Chicken
2-3 lbs bone-in chicken thighs and legs
16 oz full-fat yogurt
3 tablespoons cumin
3 tablespoons coriander
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon mace
1 tablespoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon ginger
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 onions, sliced
1. Mix together yogurt and spices.
2. Place chicken pieces in a large zip bag and pour yogurt mixture on top; mix well to evenly cover all of the chicken with the yogurt mixture.
3. Seal bag and place in the refrigerator; allow chicken to marinate for 24-36 hours.
4. Set the cast iron Dutch oven (with the lid on) on the BBQ rack and heat the BBQ to 500º.
5. Carefully remove the lid and spray with cooking spray.
6. Line the pan with sliced onions to a depth of 2 inches.
7. Remove chicken from marinade and place on top of the onions; drizzle with a bit of the remaining marinade; cover and close BBQ lid.
8. Cook, without peeking, for one hour.
9. Carefully remove lid and let cool for 10-15 minutes before serving.
10. Serve with naan, chutney and raita.