Most of the time, when I’m cooking chicken, I’ll be cooking boneless, skinless breasts. It’s not that we don’t like whole chicken, we do, but so many recipes simply default to that standard. In trying to save money, I learned that buying bone-in chicken meat, especially whole birds, is actually more economical than even buying the bag of frozen breasts, if you don’t want the 13% injected ones, anyway. I’ve since learned how to roast a whole bird well, but after that I was sort of stuck. Enter the book Poulet. I’ve found recipes in this book that are a complete departure from what we’re used to, and they’re good.
We ended up choosing the Nepalese Guesthouse Chicken recipe last night for dinner, and it was SO. GOOD. My son, who usually is hesitant to try new things, actually said, “Wow! This is good! Can we make this again?” That is the ultimate compliment he can given, and to my knowledge that compliment has only ever been given to mac and cheese before this. :)
The tea leaves may seem odd in this, but I think if you used leaves from a tea bag, rather than loose leaf, like we did, the texture would be improved, as the leaves going into a tea bag are cut much smaller. If you use loose leaf, just smash them up a bit so they break into smaller pieces.
Nepalese Guesthouse Chicken, from Poulet, by Cree LeFavour
8 to 10 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1 tsp cumin seeds or 1/2 tsp ground cumin (for this and all following I used pre-ground spices)
1 green or brown cardamom pod or 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 Tbsp peanut oil
1 Tbsp Darjeeling tea (about 1 tea bag) (I used loose leaf Assam tea, as it's what I had)
1 tsp kosher salt
5 peppercorns, crushed, or 1 tsp ground pepper
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
Grind the cumin seeds and the cardamom in a spice grinder or a clean coffee grinder. (Skip this if you're using ground spices, like I did.) In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients except the chicken to make a paste. Spread the paste on the skin of the chicken. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes or so before cooking.
Build a medium-low fire in a charcoal or wood grill, or heat a gas grill to medium-low. Use a clean, well cured grate. If you're using charcoal or wood, you want hot embers, not flames.
Put the thighs, skin side down, on the grill and let them cook for five minutes or so without moving them. After that, flip every five minutes to keep from sticking and burning the skin. Plan on standing and flipping the chicken every five minutes for 30 to 40 minutes.
If the chicken is burning or the fat is lighting flames, turn the heat down or move the chicken to a cooler spot, or douse the flames with a squirt bottle. Work slowly and you'll be rewarded with a crispy, delicious skin and a juicy interior.
When the chicken is done, the meat should be firm but with a little give when you poke it with your finger. An instant-read thermometer should register 175ºF/80ºC. If you're still not sure, cut into a piece and check the color. The juices that run should be clear, not red or pink, and the meat should be opaque, and only barely pink at the bone.
Remove from the grill, let stand for a minute or so while you assemble other sides, and dig in. Enjoy!