When I moved from Santa Cruz to Modesto, I had to give up my favorite Indian eateries. No more Aloo Tikki from the Royal Taj. No more Basil Eggplant courtesy of Asian Rose. In short, I had to start all over, sampling the local fare where I could find itand still, I felt somehow unsatisfied. For a while, I made do with Trader Joe’s Simmer Sauces (both the Curry and Masala sauces are tasty, thrifty and stupid-simple ways to get Indian flavors to your table) but still, I wanted more. It was at this point, that I fell upon “The Spice Merchant’s Daughter” and embarked upon the journey which my family now refers to as Jules’ Indian Obsession. The book is full of delectable dishes, but the Whole Roasted Chicken with Tamarind Butter Sauce stands out and tops my list of Unexpectedly Extravagant home-cooked cravings. There is nothing shy or subtle about these flavors. The sweetness of the marinade plays off the tang of the tamarind and each bite screams with flavor.
Roasted Tamarind Chicken (adapted from Cristina Arokiasamy’s “The Spice Merchant’s Daughter”)Marinade: 2 Tsp corriander seeds 4 star anise (I usually substitute 3 Tsp fennel seeds) 1 4-inch cinnamon stick 2 garlic cloves ½ cup soy sauce one whole chicken Sauce: 1 Tbsp. butter ½ c plus two tbsp tamarind concentrate 2 tbsp. fish sauce ¼ c soy sauce ½ c brown sugar ½ tsp. cayanne
Toast the corriander, star anise and cinnamon in skillet for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove, add garlic and soy sauce, blend in food processor until you have a paste. (Remove any large bits of cinnamon that don’t get crushed completely.)
Put chicken in baking dish and pour paste/sauce over it. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours. Cook in 375 oven with ½ inch water in bottom of pan. , reserving marinade to baste chicken with every 20 minutes during cook time. Roast with basting for one hour. Then roast for another 30 minutes without basting until juices run clear. Allow chicken to rest 10 minutes before carving.
While chicken is resting, prepare sauce. Add butter to a saucepan over medium heat. Then add tamarind liquid, fish sauce, soy sauce and ¼ c water. Bring to a boil. Add brown sugar and cayanne, stirring to dissolve sugar. Cook for 3 minutes until sauce is deep reddish brown and slightly thickened. Carve chicken, arrange pieces on platter and pour sauce over them.
This recipe pairs nicely with Arokiasamy’s “Pine Nut and Orange Pilaf” but any mildly fragrant Basamati rice will do what must be done when the last of the chicken on your plate is gone, which is (of course) to soak up all that seriously craveable sauce.