Tandoori-Inspired Spicy Grilled Chicken Thighs and Legs; Rasika Restaurant Washington, DC

I started out this morning craving the flavors of India. Maybe I was still dreaming of a recent meal at Rasika in Washington, DC. From the house-candied ginger Champagne Cocktails to the English Peas and Cabbage with mustard seeds to the last fragrant bite of saffron panna cotta, my palate was alive and happy.

English Peas, Rasika Restaurant Washington, DC

English Peas, Rasika Restaurant Washington, DC

In my saffron-induced haze, I gathered spices from my cabinet–smoked paprika, turmeric, saffron salt, sesame seeds, cinnamon, etc.–and came up with the recipe below.

What’s your favorite summer chicken recipe or Indian restaurant, and why?

Spicy Grilled Chicken Thighs & Legs

Print Recipe

If you love thighs as much as I do, you'll enjoy Jim Harrison's essay Where Have All The Thighs Gone in one of my favorite books, THE RAW AND THE COOKED (see recommended reading on this blog).


  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled
  • 1 serrano chili, stemmed
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika (pimenton ahumado)
  • 1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon white sesame seeds
  • ½ tablespoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt
  • juice of 1 fresh lemon
  • 2 pounds bone-in, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 pounds chicken legs


  1. Purée first 11 ingredients in food processor or blender. With machine running, gradually add oil through feed tube and process until blended. Add yogurt and lemon juice to processor and mix until just blended.
  2. Score thighs and legs with a sharp knife and place chicken in a large glass (or other non-reactive) bowl. Pour yogurt mixture over chicken; rubbing mixture into the meat. Cover and refrigerate minimum 1 hour or overnight.
  3. Prepare grill (medium heat). Place chicken on grill. Cover and cook until chicken is cooked through, turning every 10 minutes, about 25 to 30 minutes total. Serve hot or at room temperature. Garnish with fresh lemons and chopped fresh cilantro and mint, maybe a some toasted sesame seeds or nigella.
  4. Serve with grilled Naan and steamed Basmati rice.

Date Published: May 25, 2009

All recipes have been tested by the Test Kitchens unless otherwise noted.

3 comments... read them below or add one


  1. May 27, 2009 10:20 am by Pierino Reply

    Kim, sounds delicious. I love thigh and leg pieces.

    Don’t forget my “Walking Spanish Down the Hall Chicken Thighs.

    I have to make Buffalo Wings sometime this summer.

  2. May 29, 2009 1:19 am by Sarah Reply

    Hi Kim,
    I just finished your wonderful book – and loved every minute of it. You have a lovely writing style. And a fondness for tandoori makes me like you even more!

  3. June 1, 2009 11:44 am by Pierino Reply

    Keem, thank you for the invitation to contribute, so Eggs in Purgatory—http://eggsinpurgatory.blogspot.com, offers you,

    Recipe: Walking Spanish Down the Hall Chicken Thighs

    Back to the Zeitgeist. There are a couple of inside jokes in the name of this recipe. One of which is that “Walking Spanish” is the title of a Tom Waits song. And another is a reference to my friend Josh Ferris’s book “Then We Came to the End.” Believe me it all comes together.

    For this very easy recipe you will need chicken thighs including the skin and the bones. Don’t wimp out with skinless, boneless, taste free stuff aka chicken thighs lite. This is a braised dish and you will need those bones. The other key ingredient is good Spanish pimenton aka paprika. I prefer the “ahumado” meaning smoked. It’s easy to order on line from Tienda or The Spanish Table.

    4 Chicken thighs
    1/3 cup superfine flour such as Wondra
    1 tbs pimenton
    3 cloves garlic sliced
    1 medium onion thinly sliced
    2 tbs olive oil or enough to cover the bottom of your dutch oven
    1/3 small olives (leave the pits in)
    6 small white potatoes thinly sliced*
    1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
    ½ cup red wine
    ½ tsp thyme, fresh if available from your garden
    Zest of one orange
    Salt and pepper

    In a dish or pie pan add the flour and pimenton, then with a fork mix together
    Pat dry the chicken thighs and dredge them. Season with salt and set aside
    In your Dutch (or French if you are of that persuasion) oven add the olive oil and heat over medium
    When the oil begins to ripple a bit add the garlic first and then the onions long enough to give them some color.

    Add the chicken thighs. Turn up the heat to medium high and brown the thighs two at a time and set aside.

    Off heat, spoon off most of the remaining oil and fat. And return pan to the burner.
    Add the red wine and reduce by half using a spatula or wooden spoon to scrape up the good stuff off the bottom and then return the thighs to your dutch oven.
    Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer covered. Then add the olives and thyme .
    After about ten minutes add the potatoes and recover. That means put the cover back on.
    Total cooking time is about 30 minutes but check with a knife or better yet an instant read thermometer. Season with salt and pepper and add the orange zest.

    Taste and serve.

    Note: about the olives; I leave the pits in. My guests know that olives have pits. They also know how to fasten their seat belt on an airplane without watching an instructional video.

    *A Kyocera adjustable ceramic slicer is great for this.

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