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Something Different
Week of: September 10, 2012
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Contact: Alice Bender, (202) 328-7744

A New Method For Tandoori Chicken

By Dana Jacobi
for the American Institute for Cancer Research

Tandoori chicken is often on the menu when I teach grilling classes. Students want to see how to make it at home. I like showing them because the yogurt marinade, besides tenderizing and flavoring the chicken, gives protection against the formation of unhealthy substances when animal proteins char on the grill.

Because slashing skinless chicken parts to better expose the flesh to the marinade can be challenging – cut too deeply and the meat dries out during cooking – I began to think about alternative ways to make this succulent dish. Besides contemplating handling the chicken differently, I also considered how to reduce the marinating time from hours or overnight to a shorter time span, yet still delivering the same tenderizing results.

First I opted for using curry powder to season the marinade rather than measuring out a bunch of individual spices. Curry powder gives good flavor and it already contains most of the same spices called for in classic tandoori recipes, plus the amount of turmeric in curry powder adds appealing color. Then, I chose Greek yogurt because its thicker texture clings better than the regular kind.

But the really big change is using boneless chicken breast and skewers. While still cutting the chicken, turning it into kebab-size pieces is much easier than slitting parts on the bone. The cut pieces, even when threaded onto bamboo skewers, are much more exposed to the marinade, so marinating is effective in less time. Finally, whether you use a grill, grill-pan or a heavy skillet on the stove, the skewered chicken cooks so quickly that charring is easy to avoid.

With the time saved, I recommend making a tangy mint-flavored Raita to serve with your streamlined tandoor chicken.

Chicken Kebabs

Tandoori Chicken Skewers with Mint Raita

  • 1 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt, divided
  • 1/3 cup reduced fat coconut milk, divided
  • 2 tsp. curry powder, mild or hot
  • 1-2 finely chopped garlic cloves
  • 3/4 tsp. sea salt, divided
  • 1 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 lb. skinless and boneless chicken breast
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped red onion
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tsp. fresh lime juice
  • 12 (8-inch) bamboo skewers

In wide, shallow bowl or deep plate, combine 2 tablespoons of yogurt with 2 tablespoons of coconut milk, curry powder, garlic and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Mix in oil.

Cut chicken lengthwise into 12 strips. Insert skewer into bottom of one chicken strip and work it up lengthwise to top. Repeat with remaining chicken. Place skewers in curry marinade and using your fingers, make sure it coats them. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 8 hours.

Arrange marinated chicken on paper toweling and blot dry, removing all excess marinade. Heat large skillet over medium-high heat, then coat with cooking spray. Or heat stovetop griddle. Arrange skewers in one layer in pan and cook for 2 minutes, browning chicken. Using tongs, turn skewers and brown on another side, 2 minutes. Turn chicken and cook until it is opaque and hot around skewer at thickest part of chicken. Transfer skewers to serving plate.

While chicken cooks, prepare the Raita. In bowl, combine remaining yogurt and coconut milk with onions, mint, lime juice and remaining salt. When possible, make Raita 30 minutes before serving chicken to allow its flavors to develop and meld. Serve it the day it is made.

Makes 4 servings for main course, snack for 6 or 12 people

Per serving: 121 calories, 7 g total fat (3 g saturated fat), 7 g carbohydrate,
8 g protein, 0 g dietary fiber, 297 mg sodium.

Something Different is written by Dana Jacobi, author of 12 Best Foods Cookbook and contributor to AICR’s New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life.

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The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $100 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.


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