Many years ago there was an Indian restaurant in town that really knew its way around a tandoor oven. It closed, of course, leaving us deprived of tandoori chicken and naan. I’ve started experimenting with naan recipes, but I’ve only just gotten around to trying out tandoori chicken at home. Turns out it’s a little tricky.
Various recipes (I consulted a lot) give very mixed messages. Some tell you to use a very hot oven, others to use a regular temperature oven. Others say to grill over the hottest coals you can manage, others to grill on indirect heat. My own thinking at this point is that a tandoor is rather like a pizza oven – extremely high heat, but without direct exposure to the heat source. The chicken is supposed to cook quickly but not burn. We tried grilling our chicken directly over coals and had trouble getting the meat to cook through without completely charring the outside – I think next time we’ll try a longer, slower technique.
The main thing that all the recipes had in common was the yogurt-and garam masala-based marinade (made with yogurt drained of some of its whey), rubbed into de-skinned and heavily slashed chicken pieces. I used a marinade from Sanjeev Kapoor’s new book How to Cook Indian, and while it was tasty it seemed far too mild, hardly flavoring the meat at all. In future attempts I will probably get it marinating further ahead of time and add quite a bit more salt.
Despite all the difficulties, it made a great dinner, and some really fantastic chicken sandwiches for several days afterwards. More experimentation is certainly called for – anyone else had good luck doing tandoori at home?