Cooking the redbirds

30 01 2009

For all you Cardinal fans, please do not be offended.  All of this is done in good fun.  

Last year I made my Super Bowl prediction based on soup (here’s the link).  I made Manhattan clam chowder, it was a success, and the Giants won in the Chowder Bowl.  This year my team happens to be playing in the Super Bowl, so the pressure has been raised to an all-time high.  If my dinner is lousy and the Steelers lose, it will be all my fault.

When selecting a dish to represent my home city of Pittsburgh I thought first of the Primanti sandwich. But then I’d need to make slaw, french fries, and a burger (along with everything else).  That would require two people in the kitchen, and baby #4 just won’t let that happen.  So in the end I chose a symbolic dish.  Something that I hope happens on Super Bowl Sunday.  Yes, a close game is very exciting, but how about a good old fashioned blowout?  Let’s cook us some birds!

Tandoori chicken was introduced to me by my lovely wife Karen.  It’s not a Trinidadian dish, it’s Indian.  But somehow she had the recipe and the spices and it quickly became my favorite food.  Then she started making her own Tandoori seasoning and it got even better.  For mine I decided to use Gordon Ramsay’s recipe from one of my favorite cooking shows, The F-Word.  Here’s Gordon’s recipe for tandoori paste.  We’re going to follow my progress as if it’s the Super Bowl.  

So how did the game go:

Playoffs: It’s crazy cold in the Burgh.
Yes, the cornish hens come frozen.  I had to thaw them in about two hours so they could marinate overnight.  Luckily they’re small, it worked just soaking them in some water.

too bad the super bowl wasn't last week when it snowed in tampa

Super Bowl Week: The teams arrive in Tampa.  Wow, it’s warm here.
Step 1 of making the tandoori was toasting coriander and cumin seeds.  Makes the kitchen smell good.

it doesn't look like much but a little is all it takes

Super Bowl Week:  Lots of talking, lots of waiting.
Once the tandoori paste was made and the hens were marinating, they go off to the fridge to sit overnight.

it's a lot like watching media day coverage

Super Bowl Week: The Steelers tweak their game plan.
I had planned on just making some rice and broccoli to go with the chicken, but that’s way too boring so I get out one of Karen’s Indian cookbooks.  I find some recipes that use ingredients we already have in the house. 

I used yellow squash instead of zucchini

Gametime!  After a week of practice the work is all done, time to play the game.
Actually once the chicken is done marinating it’s pretty easy to just slide them in the oven at 375˚.

is this Kurt Warner staring down the Steelers D?

First Quarter: The two teams act cautiously, trying to find an advantage.  The Steelers think they’ve found one.
After putting the hens in the oven, I start to prep for the side dishes.  I chop up some onion, garlic, ginger, tomato, and yellow squash for the veggies and get the stand mixer kneading some chapatis, which is a kind of flat bread.  That’s not a picture of them next to the recipe.

they were actually pretty easy to make

Second quarter: Things start moving, and both teams react quickly to each other.
The dough needed to rest for a while and the veggies were ready to go into the pan.  So much going on I didn’t have time to take any pictures.

Third quarter: The Steelers get two big plays from special teams.
I was glad that we had all these Indian spices at home already, because the house smelled great while I was cooking up the veggies.  At the same time I started cooking the chapatis.  We told the kids it was roti, and it was probably the same thing.  Both sides turned out great, and I did make some plain white rice for the boys.

Fourth quarter:  After the surprise play on special teams, the defense does the rest and puts the game away.
The yellow squash and fenugreek were really good and a very nice surprise, but the highlight of the meal really was the chicken.   Jonathan asked for seconds of everything, and even suggested that I “make this again sometime.”  I’d never heard that one before, not even from Karen.

Looks like a six pack of Lombari's for Pittsburgh

So there you have it.  Game over.  It was my first foray into the wonderful world of Indian cuisine, as well as my first attempt to cook cornish hens.  And it was a smashing success.  So, based on this meal, who wins the Super Bowl?  Who do ya think I’d say, even if I’d ruined it?

My pick: Steelers by 10.  It was that good.

If you’re interested in the recipe, click below.

Recipe for Tandoori-spiced Cornish Hens

I’m sure that in a week they’ll remove that recipe from the web so Gordon can sell it in a cookbook.  So here’s what I did:

1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. coriander seeds
2 tsp. garam masala
2 tbsp. paprika
1 tsp. chili powder
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tbsp. canola oil
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. tumeric
1 tbsp. tomato paste
3 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
1 knob ginger, grated
1 150g tub of plain yogurt

Toast the cumin & coriander seeds in a dry nonstick skillet until fragrant.  Grind them in a mortar & pestle.   Combine with all the other ingredients.  Marinade the chickens overnight & roast them in the oven until they reach an internal temperature of 180˚ (about 1 hour at 375˚).



9 responses

30 01 2009

I am duly impressed. With the toasting of seeds and your own paste and everything. Even though all this “football” talk goes way over my head. 🙂 Good Luck! (I really like the way the camera’s working for you – even the shot of that blue bowl in the fridge is great!!)

30 01 2009

From your blog to God’s ears! Go Steelers!

30 01 2009
Heidi @ GGIP

Sounds and looks delicious!

1 02 2009
Michele B

O.K. Mark we’re counting on you tonight…we need to see some cooking-influencing-football magic…no pressure though. I am going to try your recipe as I just made some tandoori chicken using a “tandoori spice” mix cheat. I want to compare a good home-made spice mix while I can still remember what the other one tastes like. I like the idea of using cornish hens – it will be my first foray into that too.

2 02 2009

Good call, though, I expected them to win anyways.

2 02 2009

So I see your team won… I never watch football but was inspired to watch after reading this blog entry!

2 02 2009

Congrats on the win, Mark! I’m sure it was the cooking of the redbirds.

2 02 2009

partying up too hard to post huh?

2 02 2010
Just an excuse to make Jambalaya « Mark Ruins Dinner

[…] using only my cooking as the deciding factor.  Don’t believe me?  Fine.  Go read THIS and THIS then come back to me.  Here’s how it works.  I pick a dish indicative of one of the […]

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