Tandoori (Indian Barbecued) Chicken
3 very young broiling chickens (about 2 to 2-1/4 pounds each)
2-1/2 teaspoons unseasoned natural meat tenderizer
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 large cloves garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger root
1 teaspoon ground roasted cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon red pepper
1 teaspoon tandoori coloring, or 1 tablespoon paprika
1/3 cup plain yogurt
Usli ghee or light vegetable oil for basting
1. Cut the wings off the chickens. Remove the neckbone carefully. Place the chickens on a cutting board and quarter them neatly. Then pull away the skin, using kitchen towels for a better grip if necessary. (Reserve the wings, neck, and skin for the stockpot.) Prick the chicken all over with fork or a thin skewer. Make diagonal slashes, + inch deep, 1 inch apart on the meat. Put the meat in a large bowl.
2. Add meat tenderizer and lemon juice to the chicken, and rub them into the slashes and all over for 2 minutes. Cover and marinate for + hour.
3. Put all the ingredients of the marinade into the container of an electric blender or food processor, and blend until reduced to a smooth sauce. (Alternatively, garlic and ginger may be crushed to a paste and blended with the remaining ingredients.)
4. Pour this marinade over the chicken pieces and mix, turning and tossing, to coat all the pieces well. (A note of caution: Since certain brands of Tandoori coloring tend to stain the fingers, it is advisable either to use a fork to turn the chicken pieces in the marinade or use a pastry brush to spread it over the chicken.) Cover and marinate for 4 hours at room temperature, or refrigerate overnight, turning several times. Chicken should not remain in the marinade for more than 2 days, because the marinade contains a meat tenderizer which, with prolonged marinating, alters the texture of the chicken meat to very soft and doughy.
5. Take the chicken from the refrigerator at least 1 hour before cooking to bring it to room temperature. The chicken is now ready to be either roasted in the oven or broiled over an electric or charcoal grill.
To Roast In The Oven:
Start heating the oven to 500-550 degrees. Take the chickens out of the marinade. Brush them with the ghee or vegetable oil, and place them on an extra-large shallow roasting pan, preferably on a wire rack. Set the pan in the middle level of the oven, and roast for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the meat is cooked through. There is no need to baste while the chicken pieces are roasting, because the enclosed environment keeps the chickens from drying excessively.
To Broil Indoors:
Preheat the broiler. Brush the grill with a little oil to prevent the meat's sticking. Place the chicken pieces, slashed side up, on the grill, and brush the slashed side with ghee or vegetable oil. Cook 2 to 3 inches away from the heat for 20 minutes. Turn and cook the other side for another 10 minutes, or until the chicken pieces are cooked through. Brush often with ghee or vegetable oil during cooking.
To Grill Outdoors:
Fire the coal well in advance (about 1-1/2 hours before you are ready to begin cooking), so that a white ash forms over the surface of the coal. This is when the coal is at its hottest. Place the grill at least 5 inches away from the heat, and rub generously with oil. Place the chicken pieces, slashed side up, over the grill and brush them with ghee or vegetable oil. Let chicken cook without turning for 10 minutes. Turn, baste the other side, and cook for 10 minutes. Continue to cook, turning and basting the chicken every 10 minutes, until it is done. The cooking time for broiling and grilling usually varies widely. Much depends upon the intensity of the heat and its distance from the chicken. The point to remember is that the chicken pieces have been marinating in a very strong tenderizing solution for two days and therefore will cook much faster than standard broiled or barbecued chicken.
Serve the chicken immediately, lightly brushed with ghee or oil.