It really was a dark and stormy night. The rain thundered down with the force and rhythm of a waterfall. I truly love rain like that ... especially when I'm home, safe and dry, and can enjoy it to the fullest. The storm reminded me of the summer monsoons in India, so I decided to make tandoori chicken. I'm not often inspired by aberrant weather to prepare a meal, but this was a special, Indian rain.
I filled the house with candlelight, incense and the haunting, lilting sounds of Ravi Shankar's sitar music, and then got down to work. As is occasionally the case, my mind and pantry were geared up for meals that were mutually exclusive; the only way a tandoori chicken would become a reality was a trip to the market, and that was out of the question. So, just as the great New York blackout of the 1960s led to an unprecedented number of births on a day nine months later, the creation of this recipe is directly attributable to a rainstorm.
INDIA CHICKEN (4 servings) 3 pound chicken, skinned Salt and pepper to taste 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper 2 tablespoons lemon juice Dash of cumin Dash of garlic powder Pinch of oregano 4 cloves garlic, minced 1 tablespoon raisins 1 1-inch section ginger root, peeled and minced 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds 1/2 teaspoon celery seeds 3 tablespoons soy sauce
With a sharp knife, carve a 1-inch checkerboard pattern into the breast, sides and legs of the chicken, lacerating deeply. Salt and pepper the chicken to taste. Combine cayenne pepper, lemon juice, cumin, garlic powder and oregano. Rub this mixture over the sliced flesh and let stand for 20 minutes.
Pure'e the remaining ingredients in the blender. (You will have to pour roughly 1/4-cup of water down the inside of the blender to wash the ginger and raisin particles back into the mixture.)
Tie the chicken's ankles together and spoon on the garlic and raisin mixture. Place 1/4-inch of water and the giblets in an 8-inch square baking pan, add the chicken, and bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes, basting often.
Serve with a green vegetable, a green salad and a dry white wine.