One of my favorite dishes in the book, this recipe comes from my friend Roopa Gulati. Her mom used to make it. It is actually very simple to cook—it’s just spiced roast chicken with dressed potatoes—but it is satisfying on every level. It looks like a painting when you set it on the table (all those dark colors); has contrasting flavors (slightly bitter turmeric beside sweet dates); and is an Indian dish that has a fairly limited ingredients list, so it’s not time-consuming to make. You ideally need fresh turmeric, which looks like a skinny, brightly colored ginger root. You’ll find it in larger supermarkets and Asian markets. If you can’t find it, use 1 tablespoon of ground turmeric instead, though it doesn’t make a paste. [Ed. Note: For a wonderful side dish to accompany this chicken, see Diana Henry's bonus recipe for Cumin and Lime-Scented Potato Salad with Date and Tamarind Chutney below main dish recipe.]
A Bird in the Hand
by Diana Henry
The day before, peel the turmeric and coarsely chop it (best to wear disposable gloves; that yellow color stains everything). Remove the coarse outer layers of the lemongrass and trim the top and base. Chop the rest—the softer part of the lemongrass—as finely as you can. Combine the turmeric and lemongrass with the chiles, the galangal, and salt. Blend in a food processor or blender with the vinegar and oil and add the cracked pepper.
Make slashes in the chicken on its breasts and legs with a small sharp knife. Wearing gloves, rub the paste all over the chicken, pushing it into the slashes and inside the bird, too. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and marinate the chicken overnight in the fridge. Bring it to room temperature before cooking. Truss the bird, if you like, since it does make it look neat.
The next day, preheat the oven to 350°F. Stuff the cavity with 3 lime halves and the Thai basil, squeezing the remaining lime half over the bird. Roast in the oven for 1 1/4 hours. Three-quarters of the way through the cooking time, add the stock or the same amount of water to the pan, scraping the sediment off the bottom to mix in with the liquid.
Serve the chicken with the juices from the pan, the potato salad overleaf (see recipe below), and a cucumber raita.
Cumin and Lime-Scented Potato Salad with Date and Tamarind Chutney
It might seem odd to drizzle a “chutney” over a salad, but this is a smooth Indian chutney, rather than the thick, chunky Anglo-Indian variety. The chutney recipe makes about 1 1/4 cups, which is more than you need for the potato salad. It’s difﬁcult to work with smaller quantities, however, so you can freeze the extra in batches. The potatoes and chutney are actually lovely on their own with some cucumber raita, but both also make brilliant side dishes for any chicken roasted with Indian spices and they’re especially wonderful with the chicken on the previous page. Serves 6 as a side dish.
for the chutney
for the potato salad
Start with the chutney. Put the tamarind, dates, jaggery or brown sugar, and 2 cups of water into a pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the dates are really soft and the mixture has reduced by about half.
Remove the pan from the heat and let cool. Stir in the spices, transfer to a food processor, and blend until smooth. You want something with a coating consistency, so add a little water if it’s too thick.
Boil the potatoes until tender. Halve each potato and put in a serving bowl. Add the lime juice, red onion, cracked pepper, chiles, and cumin. Stir and let cool. Add the herbs, drizzle with about
1/4 cup of the chutney, and toss to coat. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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Recipes reprinted with permission from A Bird in the Hand by Diana Henry. Copyright 2015, Mitchell Beazley. Photos by Lauren Edwards.