Monday, December 15, 2008

Tandoori + Barbeque = Wonderful

We recently bought a bunch of plain yogurt to make mulligatawny with leftover turkey. It never materialized, so we had a bunch of plain yogurt in the fridge. Chicken breasts were on sale so I figure I'd try a tandoori inspired BBQ concoction called "Chicken Exotica."

You start by marinating chicken breasts in yogurt mixed with lime juice, minced garlic, honey, and a mixture of a bunch of spices (paprika, coriander, cumin, ginger, allspice, salt, and pepper). You marinate the chicken for at least 12 hours and up to 48.

Then you slice up a red bell pepper and an onion into quarter-inch strips and toss them in a skillet with olive oil over medium-high heat until the onions carmelize. Then throw in about a half cup of mutha sauce (from the Dinosaur BBQ Cookbook) and cook a few more minutes until the sauce thickens.

Then you grill the chicken about 5-6 minutes per side. When they're done, you brush them with mutha sauce and bring them in. You put a scoop of the onion-pepper-sauce combo on each breast. I served them over a bed of long-grain basmati rice with asparagus steamed and sauteed in garlic butter on the side.

It was different grilling last night. At one point yesterday, the temperature was around 40 degrees. This morning it was lower than -10 degrees, with 50 mph winds (that translates to -30 degree windchills). So last night around 5:30 when I started the grill it was somewhere between: probably around 15 or 20 degrees with 40 mph winds. I have grilled before in cool weather, but never freezing weather. I was worried that the cold would put out the fire, but the wind acted as a bellows and really got the coals going hot. In just the few short minutes that I steood on the porch brushing the chicken with sauce my ears went numb and I could barely feel my fingers as I pulled the chicken off the grill.

But it was worth it. The yogurt tenderizes the chicken to the point that you can really almost overcook it without losing succulence. That allows you to get a nice carmelized (not quite charred) oustide that really soaks up the natural wood and smoke flavor, but without drying out the inside of the breast. The lime flavor really comes through, and is a fantastic complement to the Indian-inspired spice mixture. The mutha sauce adds some compexity and tang to the whole thing, but without being overpowering. And the carmelized onion really sits well with the honey-lime sweetness. The recipe actually calls for fresh cilantro snipped over the dish at the end, but I forgot.

It was still good.

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