Tandoori Story

In MY ARTICLES, My Farming Experiences, POULTRY by James3 Comments

“Let’s process a couple of chickens and use the clay oven to make some Indian style tandoori chicken.” That’s the summary of an idea my friend Dan and I had a couple of weeks ago. This past weekend I ventured out to Hansol farm to meet up with friend and farming buddy Dan Salesses to carry out our plan. Dan lived and worked at Hansol Farm for 3 years, on and off, and is on his way back to the states. The day was a kind of farewell party and a new experience for us both. Dan has a culinary background which always helps in scenarios like this, but neither one of us had processed a chicken the way we had planned to, nor attempted to make tandoori chicken in a clay pizza oven. Even more neither one of us had spent a 12 hour day in sub-freezing temperatures to prepare an on-farm meal. But, it worked out. Kind of.

The Menu

The menu for the day would be tandoori chicken and a chicken Korma curry, with sides of naan bread and Basmati rice. We’d be making everything from scratch, minus grinding the spices, and milking a cow to produce the curd and ghee. Hansol farm has a nice clay pizza oven, which is much bigger than a tandoori oven, but our hope was to get it hot enough to mimic a tandoori which can reach degrees of up to 900 Fahrenheit – clay ovens typically get up to 500. The other integral part of our plan was to use farm fresh chicken that we would process ourselves.

The Processing

The first order of business was the dispatching and processing of the chicken. We each selected a chicken from one of the chicken houses and took them to our makeshift kill station. After a swift and humane kill we tried out a new technique. Typically if you’re going to keep the skin you’ll need to de-feather which is simple and fast if you have a machine, or tedious and long if you’re doing it by hand. The good thing about Indian food (for us), the chicken is served skinless, so we were able to avoid the de-feathering process by essentially pulling the skin off with the feathers still attached to the skin. It turned out to be a highly efficient method, and one I’ll go back to in the future if circumstances call for it. If you’re interested in the technique I’ve added the video at the end of this post.

 

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IMG_0033 Butchering and Marination

If you’ve never butchered an animal, whole chicken is the place to start. I had never done it. Dan had done it many times and showed me the ropes. There’s very little to it, just youtube it and you’ll find countless videos. After we butchered our chickens Dan traded me his breasts for my legs. He was in charge of the tandoori chicken and I’d be manning the Korma station. One of the things you’ll quickly learn when you enter the world of Indian cuisine is you can never have enough curd (yogurt). Both of our recipes required us to marinate our chicken in mixture of curd and spices for several hours before cooking. The curd acts as a tenderizer and also a carrier for the spices, in addition to adding it’s own unique flavor.

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 IMG_0042Cooking

After several hours of marination all of which was done outside of the refrigerator due to the sub freezing weather, we realized it would have been better to marinate in a bit of a warmer environment, but there was no major harm, as far as we could tell. I started on the Korma, while Dan tended to the clay oven and started working on the fire. The Korma was fairly easy to cook on the stove top. Dan did a good job in nursing the fire and getting the heat nice and hot inside the oven. We’re not sure how hot we actually got it, but it was hot enough to burn  your hand if you stuck it into the oven. Thankfully we had some really long tongs to tend the fire and move the chicken in and out with. The last step was throwing in some naan. We used a recipe we found online. You can read it HERE if you’re interested in making your own naan at home. It’s fairly easy. Another thing I learned was that even naan dough takes curd.

 

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 IMG_0055The Final Product

The final product turned out well aside from one thing we didn’t anticipate – the meat was a bit chewy and tough. It took us some time to account for the reason but eventually realized it was tough due to the type of chicken we used, and more specifically how it lives its day-to-day life. The chickens at Hansol Farm are layer chickens, which means they are farmed for their eggs. Hansol farm is an animal friendly farm so unlike factory chicken farms these chickens are able to walk around and scratch, and jump, and have a good amount of space to do so. Essentially they are getting exercise for most of the day which translates to lean and mean chicken meat – especially leg meat. The meat chickens (called broilers) most people buy at the supermarket spend very little time walking around, and the reason pastured meat birds are still tender is because they too spend their days in a smaller area which doesn’t allow them to walk and jump around as much as layers do. We knew old layers would be tough eating, but even young ones do not fair well with fast cooking like tandoori, or probably anything aside from a slow roast or crock pot. Aside from tough meat, the biggest take-away from this experience for Dan and I was Indian food is delicious, but much more delicious when prepared in temperatures above freezing. Thanks for reading.

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Comments

  1. Addye Thole

    I think that doing this cooking adventure in subfreezing temps. probably warmed up Dan’s heart !! Congrats to you both for braving those temps !!
    Sure learned a lot about cooking a chicken & myself. I think I am too lazy to do it this way.Ha.
    But now I do want to try the naan dough. Pretty sure the layered chickens would trump our market bought hens back here any day for their nutrition value!!
    Hope Dan has a safe trip back to the states.

  2. Author
    James

    Thanks! Sorry for the late reply, thought I did. Yes, it was damn cold, but a memorable experience nonetheless. 🙂

  3. Pingback: Thoughts of A Wannabe Farmer – Two Years Later | I Wanna Farm

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