My son Luca has laid claim to this dish, even though he’s never made it, just eaten it. But he said, mum, this is simply the best chicken dish I have ever eaten. Of any type. He loves spicy foods. He loves chicken cooked until it falls off the bone. It didn’t come as a complete surprise, then, when he went into raptures over this. I made it again, just to check, and he repeated what he said, then he laid down the gauntlet: this is MY chicken dish. Whether he means that he’s going to be cooking it from now on in, or that he wants it served up every time someone mentions chook, I’m not sure. We had it again on Monday night – I’m as addicted as he is – and had the leftovers for lunch on Tuesday, and last night I was cursing having said he could finish it off because I could have eaten more for dinner last night.
There are several ways you can serve it up. I like it taken to the table on a large platter and broken apart with a large knife and fork; it should be so tender that the thighs and wings just splay open with a gentle nudge.
It’s great, though quite classic, with rice or Indian breads, and can be part of a warming feast with other Indian dishes, chutneys and pickles. On Monday night I served it with a chunky cucumber, red onion, mint and radish salad, with a white vinegar and sugar dressing and topped it with crushed peanuts, and a tomato salad with a few squirts of lemon and a smattering of crisp fried shallots. No rice, nothing else, just lots of chicken and fresh salady stuff. If you like fruit and spice, you could try it served with a fresh mango salad dressed with lemon juice and mint, or a fresh pineapple cored and cubed then doused with sharp and tarty tamarind juice. That’d be sensational. Guess I need to make it again to try that out, although I think I’ll push the recipe Luca’s way!
It’s another dish which seems to improve after a night’s repose in the fridge – but warm it up slowly before serving (best done in the oven, covered), although small portions reheat well in the microwave. If you don’t have ghee or clarified butter, use regular butter (unsalted by preference as it is less likely to burn) but keep an eye on the chicken when browning it. I use a cast-iron casserole and heat it on medium, then lower the heat once I add the chicken as cast-iron retains heat. If you are using a metal dish, which will heat up quickly, brown the chicken over a very gentle heat or the butter will burn.
Photography Aaron McLean http://www.aaronmclean.com