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Tandoori Chicken Legs

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Serves 6

  • by Steven Raichlen from Fine Cooking
    Issue 117

These legs get a triple blast of flavor: first from a soak in lemon juice and salt, then from a pungent marinade of spices and yogurt (which also tenderizes the meat), and finally from a bit of butter brushed on at the end of cooking. Removing the skin from your chicken legs before grilling may seem like a waste of potentially crisp deliciousness, but it helps the marinade penetrate the meat more easily, as does making deep slashes in the meat before marinating.

For the chicken:
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • 6 whole chicken legs (2 to 3 lb.)
  • Vegetable oil for the grill
For the marinade:
  • 1 Tbs. finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • 1/3 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 3 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1-1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. sweet paprika
  • 3/4 tsp. hot dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
For finishing:
  • 2 oz. (4 Tbs.) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium lime, cut into wedges
Prepare the chicken:

Combine the lemon juice and 1 tsp. salt in a large zip-top plastic bag and massage the bag until the salt crystals dissolve.

Pull the skin off the chicken legs. Using a sharp knife, make 2 or 3 deep slashes in each leg, almost to the bone. Toss the chicken legs in the lemon juice, seal the bag, and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Marinate the chicken:

Mash the ginger, garlic, and 1 tsp. salt to a paste with the side of a large knife and transfer the paste to a small mixing bowl. Whisk in the remaining marinade ingredients. Add the marinade to the chicken legs and massage the bag to thoroughly coat the legs. Seal the bag and refrigerate the chicken for at least 4 hours but preferably 12 to 24 hours.

Grill the chicken:

Prepare a gas or charcoal grill fire for indirect grilling over medium-high heat (400°F).

If using a charcoal grill, bank the coals to one side. Put a 9x13-inch foil drip pan on the grate next to the coals and fill it halfway with water. Replace the grill grate.

If using a gas grill, put a 9x13-inch foil drip pan on the inactive burners and fill it halfway with water. Replace the grill grate.

Clean the grate with a wire brush and, using tongs, wipe the grate with a paper towel or cloth dipped in oil.

Arrange the legs over the drip pan and away from the heat. Grill, flipping once, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat reads 170°F, 25 to 30 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a platter and brush each leg with the melted butter. Garnish with the cilantro leaves, onion slices, and lime wedges and serve.

Serving Suggestions

Serve with Grilled Naan Filled with Herbs and Cheese or Basmati Rice Salad with Mango and Cucumber.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 390; Fat (g): 28; Fat Calories (kcal): 250; Saturated Fat (g): 10; Protein (g): 30; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 10; Carbohydrates (g): 3; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 6; Sodium (mg): 400; Cholesterol (mg): 125; Fiber (g): 1;

Photo: Scott Phillips

Absolutely delicious !

Chicken was crispy and moist, delicious. Maybe could have been spicier?

Without question, the best chicken dish I've made in quite a while. Great flavour, incredibly moist.

This was one of the tastiest Tandoori recipes I have tasted! In the few times I have made this recipe, I have found that the marinade is much better when it sits for a few hours rather than over night.

These things are fabulous! The ingredient list looks a bit intimidating but is well worth the effort. Basically you're just marinating the chicken before you grill it & I let mine sit overnight. Definitely oil the grill but I didn't miss the skin at all and the cilantro, thinly sliced red onion & lime juice at the end makes it even more amazing. I thought about forgoing that step & am so glad I didn't. So full of flavor I never once thought of picking up the salt & pepper I normally seem to add. This is a keeper for sure! Give it a try!

I used chicken leg quarters that I got at the farmer's market, which is quite lean so my chicken turned out a little dry, especially without the skin. The spice flavor was noticeable and a little strong for me but my husband liked it. I would probably make this again but will definitely lessen the cooking time to keep it from drying out and definitely moderate the spices a bit for my taste.

I was initially skeptical about this without the skin. But it turned out quite good. I did it indirect on my kamado-style Primo grill. Browned the butter and stopped the process with a couple of lime squeezes. Paired it with saffron rice, fresh pineapple and a simple salad. Certainly a keeper!

This was great. Definite keeper. Marinade had a ton of flavor. Ground ginger and garlic gave it nice texture. I thought I was going to miss the chicken skin but didn't at all. It does burn easily on the grill so watch it carefully. I put it directly over the fire to get some char, but then moved it around. Also, you want to oil the grill well before putting the chicken on as it could stick and you might lose some of the most flavorful part. I forgot to do the finishing steps with cilantro and lime but didn't miss it. Will try next time.

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