Spice-Roasted Chicken

Isn’t evolution wonderful? Not the fact that we’re now walking upright and the hairiness has abated – waxing keeps my eyebrows in check! – but the way a recipe can morph and adapt to suit a mood or the ingredients you have on hand.
I regularly use recipes as a springboard for cooking without the need of running out for an obscure or expensive ingredient that I’m more than likely not going to use on a regular basis. Risotto is a classic example. Get the basic recipe down and damn near anything can be added to that Italian comfort dish.
On the weekend, I bought a series of vintage Time-Life Cookbooks, called The Good Cook. Compiled in the late 1970s by the late and influential Richard Olney, the books are brilliantly illustrated and filled with inspiring recipes with many old school classics that are experiencing a renaissance.
Flipping through the books and craving chicken for dinner, I took a shine to an exotic sounding recipe called Kubab Chicken.
Credited to Elizabeth David, who adapted it from an Indian recipe found in an obscure cookbook, Indian Domestic Economy and Receipt Book published in Madras in 1850, the ingredients called for were things I had on hand. Sort of.
While the recipe asked for a whole chicken, I opted for my favourite economy cut, chicken leg with back attached. The butter requested was subbed for olive oil, and I added garlic to the roster of spices required: ginger, cloves, cardamom, black peppercorns, salt and lemon, ground in a mortar and pestle. I kind of took it from its Indian roots with a quick dip into the Mediterranean.
Hits of lemon juice and olive oil whipped it into a cohesive mass ready for marinating the chicken.
The recipe is unique in that it requests that the chicken skin be pulled back to make room for a slathering of the marinade and replaced to marinate for a couple of hours.
A quick searing in olive oil, and transfer to a 350 degree oven ….

…. where roasting and caramelizing works its magic. While the recipe requested lemons be served on the side, I added them to the pan to roast. I just love roasted lemons, they add a crispy, sour and citrusy note that is brilliant in this lovely rendition of recipe evolution.
Other possible life paths for this recipe:
Forgo the lemon, butter or olive oil and add yogurt to the marinade for a decidedly Indian flavour. Grill the chicken once it marinates overnight.
Vary the spice mixture, riffing on a garam masala by omitting the ginger and cloves, using cinnamon, saffron, whole cardamom and a little ground ginger.

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