South Indian Chettinad Chicken


I lived in India for three years and I had very tasty Indian food at many restaurants as well as at my Indian friends homes. Needless to say I became very picky when it comes to Indian food, it has to be authentic! I don't like it too sweet, too oily, too buttery or too spicy. For 28 years I have been trying to come up with the perfect Indian Chicken recipe. I have tried many recipes from I found on the web and many recipes from cook books. But none of them was just right.

I love this recipe - it is just right! This chicken dish tastes delicious and authentic.

And it can be tweaked at the end to make three different varieties which is perfect if you have guests and want to serve more than one dish. You cook it all in one pot than split it at the end and add some coconut milk or heavy cream to change it up a bit.

I marinate the chicken overnight for best result. The minimum time for marinate should be 4 hours.

For this dish you will have to make your own Chettinad Masala Spice, which is a spice mix that you add at the very end when it is done cooking. The recipe makes enough to last you for at least three times of cooking the dish. Store the leftover masala in a sterilized glass jar or zip-lock bag for future use. I have learned to never throw away empty spice jars made out of glass, they come in handy when I make my own masalas. There are many ways to sterilize a glass jar, the easiest is to clean it, and add it wet to the microwave. Microwave for 30-45 second, depending on the size of the jar. Garam Masala is another spice mix that is used in this recipe. In India, almost every home has their own Garam Masala recipe. You can also purchase it at Indian Grocery Stores. If you don't have any Indian markets near you, you can check out my Garam Masala recipes.

In this recipe and almost all other Indian recipes a garlic ginger paste is used. You use fresh ginger root and garlic cloves to make the paste. Tip: The easiest way to peal garlic cloves is to cut off both the "tips" and then smash the garlic clove with the blade of a knife. The peal comes right off.

I use a mortar to crush the garlic and ginger into a paste. I slice the ginger into small pieces before I crush. If you don't have a mortar you can use a garlic press for the garlic and just chop the ginger very finely (or you could even use a blender).

Here are the steps for making South Indian Chettinad Chicken:

1. Wash and pat dry the chicken. Cut the chicken into 1 ½ inch pieces. Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl, add the chicken pieces and stir well so all the chicken gets coated well. Cover and let marinate overnight or at least four hours in the refrigerator. I always move the chicken into a large zip-lock bag to marinate. It takes less space in the refrigerator and it also makes the chicken better coated with the marinade. Make sure to press out any air if you use this method. Make sure to take the marinated chicken out of the refrigerator 1/2 hour to 1 hour before cooking as it will turn out best if it is at room temperature before cooking.

2. Make the Chettinad Masala. You can skip this step if you have masala leftover from the previous time you made it.

Dry roast the coconut in a pan over medium heat until coconut gets a nice golden brown color. Add the rest of the spices to the pan and dry roast for a few more minutes (this is done to make sure any moisture is removed from the spices). Let cool down completely. After completely cooled, add the mix to a spice grinder or blender and grind into a powder. (I use my Nutri bullet). For this recipe you will need to use 1 1/2 tbsp. Chettinad Masala, store the rest in a sterilized spice jar or glass jar for future use.

3. Make the gravy: Prepare all the ingredients (chop/crush etc.). Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add Cinnamon, Bay Leaf and Cumin and sauté for 1 minute. Add onion and sauté on medium heat until it has a light golden brown color. Add garlic and ginger and sauté until raw smell Is gone, about one minute. Add green chili and chopped tomato and sauté until tomatoes is soft, about 5 minutes.

4. Add the marinated chicken and sauté for a few minutes, stir to make sure all side of chicken gets sautéed. Keep the temperature at medium or a little higher. Add salt and cover with a lid. Do not add any water as the chicken will release juices. Turn the heat down to Medium Low (around 2 out of 10) and let it simmer until chicken is done (cooking time depends on the size of your chicken pieces, I generally let it simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour. When you cook on such low temperature the chicken just keeps getting more and more tender the longer you cook). When done take the lid off and and let it sit on the stove until some of the juices have evaporated. Add 1 ½ tbsp. Chettinad masala and stir well, making sure all the chicken get coated. Taste to see if more salt is needed. Garnish with cilantro. Serve with steamed basmati rice, South Indian Ghee Rice or nan bread.

You need:

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1 chicken Breast or 2 Chicken Thighs per person (If you use all boneless chicken pieces I recommend adding a couple of drumsticks to the mix as the bones helps make a better gravy.). For this recipe you need to use a minimum or 1 lb. chicken (1/2 kilo) or the flavors will be off.

Marinade:

2 tsp. Chili powder (not red hot chili pepper).

½ tsp. Turmeric

2 tsp. Coriander powder

1 tsp. Garam Masala

1 tsp. Kitchen King Masala (optional)

1 tbsp. Lemon Juice

2 tbsp. Apple Cider Vinegar

1 tsp. Kosher Salt (or regular salt)StartFragment

Chettinad Masala:

3 tbsp. grated coconut

1 Cinnamon Stick

5 Cloves

4 Cardamoms

½ tbsp. black peppercorns

1 tbsp. fennel seeds

2 tbsp. coriander seeds

5 Dry Red ChiliesStartFragment

Gravy:

1 Cinnamon Stick

1 Indian Bay Leaf - "Teja Patta" (“Teja Patta” comes from the Cassia Tree and not from the Laurel Tree that Western Bay Leaves come from. If you don't have Indian Bay Leaf, leave it out or you can add either a little Cassia Bark, 1/4 tsp. ground Cinnamon, or 1 extra clove instead.)

½ tsp. ground Cumin

1 Onion, finely chopped

1 Tomato, chopped

1 Green chili, chopped (or Jalapeño if you can't find chili)

4 cloves garlic , crushed or pressed into a paste

1 inch fresh Ginger, crushed into a paste

3 tbsp. Canola or Avocado oil (or other vegetable oil)

½ tsp. kosher salt (or regular salt)

1 1/2 tbsp. Chettinad Masala (recipe above).

A handful of Fresh Coriander (Cilantro), stems removed, to garnish.

Instructions:

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1. Wash and pat dry the chicken. Cut the chicken into 1 ½ inch pieces. In a large bowl mix the marinade ingredients together and add the chicken pieces. Mix well and cover or move the chicken into a large zip-lock bag and let marinate overnight or at least four hours in the refrigerator.StartFragment

2. Make the Chettinad Masala. Dry roast the coconut in a pan over medium heat until coconut gets a nice brown color. Remove the coconut from the pan and add the rest of the spices to the pan. Dry roast for about one minute (this is just done to make sure any moist is removed from the spices). Remove from the pan and let cool down completely. After completely cooled, add the mix to a blender and grind into a powder. You only need 1 ½ tbsp. for this dish. Store the rest in a spice jar or glass jar for future use.

3. Make the gravy: Prepare all the ingredients (chop/crush etc.). Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add Cinnamon, Bay Leaf and Cumin and sauté for 1 minute. Add onion and sauté on medium heat until it has a light golden brown color. Add garlic and ginger and sauté until raw smell Is gone, about one minute. Add green chili and chopped tomato and sauté while smashing the tomatoe until soft and mashed up, a few minutes.

4. Add the marinated chicken and sauté for a few minutes, stir to make sure all side of chicken gets sautéed. Keep the temperature at medium or a little higher. Add salt and cover with a lid. Do not add any water as the chicken will release juices. Turn the heat down to Medium Low and let it simmer until chicken is done (you can check one piece after about 30 minutes). When done take the lid off and stir until most of the juices have evaporated. Add 1 ½ tbsp. Chettinad masala and stir stir making sure all the chicken get coated. Taste to see if more salt is needed. Garnish with cilantro. Serve with steamed basmati rice, South Indian Ghee Rice or nan bread.

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