I have been making Indian food from Madhur Jaffrey's books for years and couldn't wait to take "At Home with Madhur Jaffrey: Simple Delectable Dishes from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka" into the kitchen.
I was looking for a dish that did not depend on coconut milk for its sauce. Coconut milk tends to give all dishes a sameness that is tiring. It's a complaint I have about Indian restaurant food too. I found a recipe for a whole chicken dish with the most unusual method. You pull all the skin off the bird (I've boned many chickens, but oddly enough, never skinned one; the bare flesh leaves the legs all wobbly because the skin keeps them attached to the body).
Jaffrey explains that Indians like to cook chicken without the skin because it helps the spices penetrate the flesh. She usually doesn't call for that in her book, but thinks it's important here.
You set the chicken in a paste of yogurt, onions, almonds, cayenne, ginger, and garam masala, ground aromatic spices (which I cheated and bought). I left the bird in the paste overnight and then transferred the entire thing to a covered casserole and baked it for over an hour. You will not think you're going to get something remarkable. The paste is tan and a little unappealing.
This is a wonderful dish. If you ordered it at an Indian restaurant, you'd be thrilled. The meat is very flavorful, the sauce intense, rich, and mildly hot.
Whole chicken baked with almond and onion sauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup plain yogurt
1 medium onion, chopped
1 piece (3 inches) fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons garam masala
2 tablespoons slivered blanched almonds
1. In a blender, combine the lemon juice, yogurt, onion, ginger, garlic, cayenne, salt, garam masala, and almonds.
2. Work the mixture until it forms a smooth paste.
1 whole chicken (about 3 3/4 pounds)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1. Remove as much of the skin on the chicken as you can. Begin with a small knife and cut a slit in the skin near the breastbone. The skin should pull off easily with your hands.
2. Cut 2 or 3 deep diagonal gashes in the fleshy part of each breast and thigh. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon salt and the lemon juice over the chicken, inside and out. Leave for 15 minutes.
3. Put half the paste into a bowl. Add the chicken and the remaining paste, so it covers the flesh and cavity of the bird. Cover and refrigerate for 4 to 24 hours.
4. Set the oven at 400 degrees.
5. In a large, deep flameproof casserole, heat the oil and add the cumin seeds. Cook 10 seconds or until they sizzle. Add the chicken, breast side up, and all the paste. Bring to a boil and remove from the heat. Cover the pot and transfer to the oven.
6. Cook the chicken for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking for 40 minutes, basting often with the sauce, until the chicken is tender (total cooking time is 70 minutes). Cut the bird into serving pieces. Adapted from "At Home with Madhur Jaffrey"
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