CD Ambassador/Guest blog: The mEAT Baron’s Tandoori Chicken, Curried Veggies, and Balsamic Grilled Romaine Hearts

A word from The CD:  Today we welcome our first guest post by a Culinary Diplomat ambassador! I have harassed Doug (AKA the mEAT Baron), the author of this post, for several months to persuade him to serve as a (regular?) ambassador posting on this site.  Doug is quite the authority on cooking global cuisine at home, particularly when it involves meat or Indian food. I will embarrass him slightly in calling out his recent curry awakening.  I’ve known Doug well before he could explain the difference between a vindaloo or biryani; between a chicken tikka or chicken makhani.  A trip to India and visit to the family home of a graduate school classmate ignited the spark that led him to perfect his proprietary tandoori spice rub (you’ll notice no proportions in the below recipes, and it will remain a trade secret) and a host of healthy Indian dishes.  That’s right, Doug also happens to be a #healthydiplomat.  A devotee to cooking light, he eliminates ghee, paneer, or other heavier elements of many Indian dishes, but he packs in the flavor so that nobody will miss the fat. So sit back and enjoy as Doug leads us on an exotic excursion.  I know I can’t wait to try these recipes in my own kitchen!


My good friend Tracey, aka the “Culinary Diplomat,” asked me to guest blog today when she found out that I was making homemade tandoori chicken for dinner.  Albeit unplanned, tonight’s menu, which paired this entrée with curried Indian veggies, happened to coincide with India’s “Republic Day” national holiday celebrations.  This event must have been fortuitous, as I had been wanting to guest blog but wasn’t sure what my first (hopefully I’m invited to blog again!) blog would be about.  Naturally, it only seems fitting that it’s about Indian food, which, hands down, is my favorite cuisine.  The spices and flavors are truly what make the food an experience, and more than just a meal.

The full menu for tonight consisted of tandoori chicken, cooked under a gas broiler since I don’t have a tandoor oven in my house, sadly (one day…).  I decided to compliment this entree with curried vegetables and char-grilled balsamic romaine hearts.  I paired this menu with a 2010 Freemark Abbey Petite Sirah from California’s Sonoma County.  Some of you may be asking yourselves, “Why on earth would he pair spicy Indian food, or chicken for that matter, with Petite Sirah?!”  Well let me assure you, it received rave reviews from everyone at dinner, who specifically raved that the wine truly complimented the chicken and the charred flavor of the romaine hearts.  Also, I’m of the belief that you drink what you enjoy, and I really wanted a red wine, so there you have it – bottom line: it worked…deliciously!
Here are the menu breakdown and details:

Tandoori Chicken

  • Six (6) trimmed boneless skinless chicken breasts (I used organic chicken from The Fresh Market, which eliminates added salt and other nasty additives that are injected into “regular” store-bought chicken)
  • 1 cup Fage Total 0% fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • Dry spice blend/rub (Garam Masala, Paprika, Cayenne, Cumin, Turmeric, Garlic, & Onion Powder)
  • Sea salt
  • Fresh cracked pepper
  1. Cut multiple slits (not all the way through) cross-wise on both sides of each trimmed chicken breast; this action allows the seasoning to better infuse and tenderize the meat.
  2. Place chicken in a sealable plastic container or a Zip-lock bag, add lemon juice and toss.
  3. Add spice mix and yogurt, using your hands to massage into the slits cut into the chicken, ensuring that the yogurt/spice seasoning evenly coats the entire chicken breast.
  4. Seal the container/bag and let marinate for 24 hours in the refrigerator.
  5. Remove the chicken from refrigerator about 30-45 min prior to cooking, to warm to room temperature.
  6. Set broiler on HIGH, and place chicken on a griddle on the top rack (I used a Williams Sonoma nonstick grilling griddle pan, which is oven-safe).
  7. Depending on the thickness of your chicken, cooking times will vary; however, I remove from the broiler and turn/rotate chicken about every 5-7 minutes.  You’ll know it’s finished when you have a nice char on the seasoning, and also by cutting the thickest portion of the breast/using a meat thermometer to ensure it is cooked through.
  8. Be careful not to overcook though, because no one likes anything less than a piece of overcooked chicken!

Curried Vegetables

  • Chopped vegetables (Broccoli, Zucchini, Mushrooms, Okra, Onion)
  • Dry spices (Curry Powder, Garam Masala, Tumeric, Paprika, Garlic, Pepper, Sea Salt)
  • 1 cup chicken or mushroom stock
  1. Add ingredients to a covered pot and place on HIGH heat, stirring frequently.
  2. Let vegetables simmer (turn heat down if it begins to boil).
  3. After 10 minutes, uncover and reduce to MEDIUM-LOW.  This step will help evaporate some of the moisture, and the liquid will thicken to a better consistency.
  4. Serve when ready.

Balsamic Grilled Romaine Hearts

  • 3 Whole hearts of romaine, sliced lengthwise (making 6 halves)
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Olive oil
  1. Mix balsamic vinegar and olive oil together, whisking gently.
  2. Coat romaine hearts lightly with oil mixture, placing them face-up on a baking sheet.
  3. Lightly drizzle a little more balsamic on the face of the romaine (you can also add salt/pepper if desired).
  4. Place under broiler on HIGH on the lower rack for approximately 8 minutes, then transfer to the top rack for another 4-5 minutes, or until charred.
  5. Remove from oven and serve.
*Optional:  You can also drizzle some lemon juice on these as well if you like.

2nd image of the meal

Little conversation took place during dinner, as my guests were busy chewing and cleaning their plates.  I hoped that this silence was an indication that everyone was enjoying the meal, and much to my pleasure, the after-dinner conversation offered positive feedback on every aspect. It was truly a memorable and fun menu to prepare.  While this isn’t something that you can just “whip up,” but instead must plan and prepare in advance, I assure you, it is worth the wait, and the effort.  So sit back, take a bite and a sip, and enjoy the fruits of your labor!
If you would like to try your hand at a guest post, please click on the “Become a CD Ambassador” page link at the top of your screen.  We would love to have you join us!

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