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Surprisingly Tasty Cardamom Chicken

I made surprisingly tasty chicken this weekend. Well, it was a surprise to me.

See, I don’t like cardamom.

Let’s go back to the beginning. It all started with a surfeit of brussel sprouts and a recent encounter with tasty cabbage curry at an indian buffet. But once putting the brussel sprouts to curry (like putting them to pasture, but different) came up, it was mentioned that Nigella Lawson has a really good recipe for Golden Cardamom Chicken that would be the right thing to go with.

Since there was a chicken in the refrigerator, it was all around decided that this was a good plan.

Two hours to dinner, I get out the chicken and the cookbook and find that they are not entirely compatible. See – the golden chicken is actually smaller pieces of chicken that are marinated and then fried. That was not going to happen to this chicken. Therefore, I took that as a starting point, and ended up with a damn tasty bird.

For the sake of this recipe, we are going to pretend I had the allspice that the recipe called for, but in reality I cursed and substituted cinnamon and nutmeg instead.

Step 1: put into a small dry skillet – 2 or 3 whole allspice, 6 black peppercorns, 6 cardamom seeds (or a pod or two, if that’s what you have, but I am not fond), 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary. Dry roast these. After a minute, also add 1/4 teaspoon turmeric and 1/2 teaspoon paprika. Right before the powdered ingredients burn, pour them out of the skillet and into a mortar (or spice grinder) – grind into as fine a powder as you can. Mix with a little bit of olive oil to form a paste.

Step 2: into a large measuring cup (you can use a bowl, but I have a fondness for measuring cups for this) grate the zest of 2 lemons. Squeeze the lemons, remove the seeds, and add the juice to the measuring cup – reserve the leftover lemon bits. Add some soy sauce, olive oil, orange juice, and maybe some white wine until the cups is decently full.

Step 3: Take out the chicken, make sure it is empty and all that. Now dump into the cavity: leftover lemon bits; a medium onion, quartered; as many garlic cloves as you feel like peeling (7ish); and 5 cardamom pods. Separate the skin from the breast meat a bit and rub the paste from step 1 mostly between the skin and the breast meat, but also rub it over the outside of the skin.

Step 4: Put in a roasting pan. Roast as you would a chicken. Every now and then, baste with the stuff in the measuring cup from step 2.

Step 5: eat.

And then in the comments, there was a question about how to convert this recipe to using chicken parts – so I offered up a formula:

Take a casserole dish. Layer the bottom with your onion and garlic and whatever you’d be putting inside the chicken (since I have never tried to deal with stuffing actually cooked inside my meat product). I find the layer tends to make cleaning the pan a little easier afterward.

Then make a layer of chicken that is as close to 1 chicken bit deep as possible.

Then you can treat the skin as the recipe expects you to treat the outside – smear overtop with the paste and feel free to either baste as you go, or cut the amount of liquid until it just comes up to the level of the chicken in the pan, but certainly does not cover the meat. If you are doing a higher proportion of leg bits with skin, you want less liquid because of all the fat that will drain and fill your pan, but if you are doing mostly breast meat, you want more liquid.

If there are any herbs or thing in the rub that you have whole, feel free to just add chunks of them instead, since more flavor tends to get into the chicken with this method of cooking: e.g. just have a handful of cardamom pods, instead of any powdered – or just slice a whole lemon and put that in instead of dealing with rind, juice, and bits.

I usually pop a piece of foil on top for the first bit of cooking and then pull it off for the last bit so that things get brown and juicy.

I tried to phrase this as a general case, but I can re-write it for the specific recipe, if that would please you more.

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