Indian-Style Barbecue Chicken: To Ezra and Shelly, With Love

Thirty-five years ago this week, my mother was throwing an elaborate dinner party. Being the height of the Seventies gourmet craze, Mom and her friend had painstakingly created a menu involving Cornish hens and a bounty of French terminology. At 5 am, Mom arose to wax the floors, prep the food, and perform more unnecessary cleaning. By 9 am, she went to the grocery store, where every five minutes she bent over to let a wave of overwhelming cramps pass.

Did I mention she was 8½ months pregnant?

“This baby is sitting on my bladder,” she complained to anyone willing to listen. The baby was not, in fact, sitting on her bladder. Mom was in labor. So intent was she on seeing her dinner party through, she refused to acknowledge this realty. “Jeanne, you are nesting!!” her girlfriend shouted into the phone. “Get to the hospital.” Such urging fell upon deaf ears due to a powerful combination of Jeanne’s iron will and raging hormones. By mid-afternoon, Mom’s body spoke too loudly for her to ignore. My Dad rushed her to the hospital, where she delivered –in the labor room, no less— my brother, Ezra.

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Here’s the part where I pull a “Simpsons” on you. (As any self-respecting Simpsons fan knows, each program begins with one storyline which, without warning, completely switches into another semi-related plot.) Stay with me here, OK? Flash forward to 2002, my brother has grown into a lovely adult with a quiet demeanor and dry sense of humor. He’s in a serious relationship with a woman named Shelly Kapoor, who, as the name indicates, is of Indian descent.

While we are clearly not Indian, you may think Mom was Italian, given the plethora of tortellini, mozzarella cheese and olive oil in her cooking. Alas, Mom was not Italian. She simply thought she was because many of her favorite people were. And such love wove its way into her cooking.

Mom’s love for Shelly was poised to reveal itself in her kitchen too. In my recipe box, Mom had included a series of Indian recipes that she must have gotten from a cookbook, including this one –Indian-Style Barbecue Chicken. Mom was prepping herself (and me) for welcoming our beloved Shelly into the family.

Six years ago today, Ezra and Shelly were married in a marvelous Hindi ceremony. My family members embraced the day with their usual zeal–imagine women in Talbot’s silk adorned in Bindis and Henna-decorated hands. Mom beamed from heaven. To celebrate both Ezra’s 35th birthday and the sixth year of his union with Shelly, I decided to spend the morning prepping a little Indian-Style Barbecue. Thankfully, this time no one is pregnant.

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Indian-Style Barbecue Chicken

Be aware that this recipe takes some time. Save this one for a weekend, when you have lots of time and people willing to watch your kids. Luckily, I had both. What I love about this recipe is that Mom didn’t just include details, but actually customized the recipe for me. Read on to see what I mean. My comments are in itals, as usual.

4 Tbsp, lemon juice
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup plain yogurt, drained for 15 minutes in a fine sieve or cheesecloth (I dug out a bizarre pouch-like cheesecloth from Thanksgiving. This was sort of a bust. Also, don’t bother with Greek-style yogurt. Too thick, and takes too long to strain. You could even skip this whole step)
2 tsp, paprika
2 garlic cloves, diced
½ tsp, ground cardamom
2 Tbsp, chopped fresh ginger root
1 tsp, roasted cumin seeds (just heat dry in a sauce pan for a minute)
¼ tsp red hot pepper flakes
6 skinless, boneless breasts (She means a CHICKEN’S breast, you perverts! Try a quartered chicken with bones –thighs and breasts would be good. At the time that Jeanne gave this to me, I was a bit grossed out by chicken-on-the-bone. I suspect she was trying to spare me)
2 Tbsp, oil for broil

1. Put all ingredients in to container of Cuisinart (The Jeanne LOVED her Cuisinart. I used a cheap blender, and it was fine), except chicken and oil! Blend to a fine texture.
2. Pour marinade over chicken turning and tossing to coat all the pieces. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate for over three hours at room temp or overnight in fridge. I like using a plastic Ziploc bag. Less air in marinade and more room in fridge.
3. Preheat broiler or grill. Place breasts in George Foreman for 17 to 20 minutes.
Isn’t that great!?!? I am a NYC dweller without access to outdoor grilling. Upon request, I’ll be happy to recount the story of how we obtained out George Foreman (Hint: It had something to do with my Mom being incredibly hung over). BTW, a regular grill is preferable, and I had one at my disposal this weekend.

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