Question: What’s the easiest way to cut calories from chicken? If you said, “Remove the skin” you’re right.
Since poultry skin is almost all fat, and therefore high in calories, removing it from one chicken breast saves about 50 calories and four grams of fat.
The bad news is cooking chicken without the skin makes for tough, dry and often flavorless fowl. You can cook the chicken with the skin on, which preserves moisture, and the number of fat grams and calories that the meat absorbs during cooking is minimal. Still, the flavor of the meat isn’t as rich as it is when eaten with a few bites of crisp, crunchy skin.
Fat delivers aromas and carries flavor. Think about your last trip through a shopping mall with a food court. You can’t smell the carrots at the salad bar, but you’re easily overwhelmed by the scent of French fries, right?
Fat tenderizes, too. Have you ever made an omelet without egg yolks? Besides looking horribly pale, it’s tough–not light and fluffy.
But when you’re cutting calories you’re probably cutting fat, too. And that means you’re probably missing out on flavor and tenderness.
That’s where marinating comes in. Letting your chicken sit for a bit in a bath of spices is a way to tenderize tough meat and add big flavor. Peasant cooks for centuries have used this technique to make old chickens less chewy and more flavorful. The Italians made chicken cacciatore. The French perfected coq au vin. And in India, cooks prepare tandoori chicken.
The tandoor, which gives the dish its name, is a clay oven. You can easily substitute a hot oven or barbecue for the clay cooker. The chicken is marinated for a few hours in spiced-up yogurt, and the result is a low-fat, high-flavor, tender and moist dish–all the things a good chicken should be.
- 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 cups plain yogurt
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
- 1 bay leaf, crumbled
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 3- to 4-pound chicken, cut in pieces and skin removed
Drop the ginger and garlic through the feed tube of a food processor with knife blade in place and motor running. (You may also use a blender.) Stop motor and add the yogurt, coriander, salt, turmeric, cumin, red pepper, bay leaf and lemon juice. Pulse until combined. Pour into a resealable plastic bag.
Remove the skin from the chicken. Using a sharp knife, cut several slashes in the chicken. This allows the marinade to penetrate the meat. Place the chicken in the yogurt marinade. Refrigerate at least four hours, or overnight.
Heat oven to 375 F. Lightly coat a baking pan with vegetable cooking spray. Remove chicken from marinade and arrange it, bone-side down, on pan. Bake, uncovered, 20 to 25 minutes or until juices run clear when tested with a fork. Makes 4 servings.
Nutrients per serving: 187 calories, 28 grams protein, 3 grams carbohydrate, 6 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 87 milligrams cholesterol, 238 milligrams sodium