Look at this beautiful thing. I won’t even get into why, for a guy, this looks inviting or even obscene. This is a tandoori chicken pita with all sorts of good stuff in it. On a Friday night when I’m tired from the week and I need an easy dinner, this nails it every time.
A few months back, I was doing the perfunctory search through foodnetwork.com to find chicken breast recipes. I find myself often looking at chicken breasts in a state of ennui, trying to give them some respect and pizzazz. On this night back then, the foodnetwork gave up a gift, and it has been a staple ever since then.
It’s from Bobby Flay who, if you are not familiar with him, is the real deal in terms of being a chef and a teacher. His recipes almost always kick ass (by comparison, Sandra Lee’s recipes almost always suck frog penises), so I was down with it from the start. Here is the original recipe I found: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/bobby-flay/tandoori-spiced-chicken-breast-with-grilled-tomato-jam-and-herbed-yogurt-sauce-recipe/index.html
I have always served this with couscous from the box by a company called Near East, which is 1) fantastic and 2) so simple that even full-time four-leaf clover searchers could make it successfully.
Tonight, I diverged from that path and bought some Israeli couscous from Trader Joe’s. The recipe on the box looked good, so I went with it and got yet another staple recipe to be sure. But more importantly, I now understand Israeli couscous a bit, so I have a new medium for side dishes too. I love when that happens because it’s not often. Here are two of my Israeli couscus recipes that I have since created since I first posted this:
The Chicken Situation
The first few times I made the chicken, I followed Flay’s recipe to a tee and it’s good, no doubt. But I had a few execution problems because of my kitchen/ grill situation.
First, this recipe is intended for someone who is working solely off of a grill. I do have a giant Santa Maria style barbecue pit in my backyard made of brick from the old Guadalupe, California, bank that was knocked down some years ago. While it’s impressive and does its job when needed, I am not going to fire up an oak fire pit for two pita sandwiches, obviously. So, most of my “grilling” is done on a grill pan in the kitchen.
The tandoori spice paste in his recipe does not work well on chicken in a grill pan; the spices get too blackened and thick (I also think his measurements are off, but perhaps I need to see how he makes it himself). So, I treat his spices as a dry rub instead and it works marvelously. The recipe for the dry rub below is enough for about 6 to 8 chicken breasts (even more, really)
I also stopped making the tomato jam thing; it’s too rich for me and the tandoori spice is enough. In its place, I slice up some fresh tomato; it gives it a fresh taste and crunch. I also like avocado slices on mine for an added element.
The yogurt sauce recipe is perfect for this and other dishes.
Here are the components of Tandoori Chicken Pita my way
Chicken and dry rub:
1 pound boneless chicken breasts
- 2 tablespoons onion powder
- 2 tablespoons garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons ground ginger
- 2 tablespoons ground coriander
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon ground cayenne
- 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
- 1 tablespoon ground white pepper
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
Blend the spices and keep them in an airtight container (how Flay uses all of this spice in his one recipe is beyond me…I think it’s a typo or something). In any case, rub it on the chicken breasts and heat up a grill pan on medium high heat. Spray it with cooking spray or put some oil in there. Grill it until done, usually 7 to 9 minutes each side for me. Take it out of the grill pan and let it rest for at least 5 minutes, but hopefully a lot more. When grilled, rested and sliced, you should see this:
1 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
a handful o’ mint leaves
a half-handful of parsley
1/4 tsp. salt
Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor or blender. Process it until its smooth and check for taste. It should have a minty taste but savory too. Here is what the final sauce looks like:
Slice up some tomatoes and avocado. Get some pita breads and heat them either on the grill with some oil (good but fatty) or in the microwave (also good, but not fatty and thus not as sexy). Open a pita and fill it like…
Me: a smear of yogurt sauce and a squirt of sriracha, a layer of chicken, tomato, avocado, more yogurt sauce, and another dab o’ sriracha
The Wife: a smear of yogurt, a layer of couscous, chicken, tomato, and another dab o’ yogurt.
Mine is the picture that opened this meandering exposition.
When you actually lay it all out, it might look like this. Have everyone assemble their own, like a taco bar. If you’re creative, I’m sure you can add some more condiments and sides for kicks.
Drinks: Notice the wife’s sangria on top, and my Mondavi cabernet on the bottom. If I was younger on a Friday night, this would be beer and whiskey.
It really only takes about 15 minutes prep and 30 minutes of cooking, if that…and totally worth it. Kind of like a one night stand after lots o’ pints.
Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.