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Recipe courtesy of Deepa Shridhar

Roasted Nati Koli Saaru

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There are many versions of nati koli saaru, some written, most verbally communicated from one generation to the next. It's classically a South Indian/Kannadiga dish, spicy and rich with chunks of chicken meat. This recipe is based on a version I enjoyed in Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore) and brings to it techniques I use in my own supper clubs and pop-ups. Here I take the flavors to a whole roasted butterflied chicken. I call for crushed tomatoes, but I also love using fermented tomatoes instead for depth and tang. This is a great dish to pair with rice, or dosa, and perfect for a dinner party.
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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 14 hr (includes marinating time)
  • Active: 2 hr
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings
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Ingredients

Chicken and Marinade:

Sauce:

Directions

  1. For the chicken and the marinade: Place a medium cast-iron skillet over high heat. Add the sesame oil. Add the fenugreek, cumin, black peppercorns and cloves and toast for about 30 seconds. Turn off the heat and let the mixture sit in the hot skillet for another 30 seconds, and then transfer to a mini food processor. Return the skillet to medium-low heat and add the shredded coconut to the skillet. Stir until toasted, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to the mini food processor. Add the ginger, garlic, cinnamon, jaggery, salt and cilantro to the processor
  2. Place the same skillet the spices cooked in over medium-heat heat (no need to add any more oil). Add the jalapeños and cook until blistered and charred. Plunge the jalapeños into a bowl of cold water. Peel the jalapeños and discard the stems. Add to the processor with the spices. Add the lime juice and process until the mixture forms a thick paste, adding a little water if necessary to get a smooth texture. 
  3. Place the chicken in a baking dish or other container large enough so the chicken will lay flat. Rub the bird all over with the marinade, cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours or overnight.
  4. When it is about 2 to 3 hours before serving, make the sauce: Place a large cast-iron pan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the oil and onion. Move the onions to one side and add the butterflied chicken, skin-side down. Add the curry leaves when the onions start to sizzle. Once you have a good sear on your chicken, carefully flip it over. Add the tomatoes, chili powder, turmeric, coconut milk and 1 1/2 cups water and stir together. Lower the heat and simmer the sauce for 15 minutes. 
  5. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Pop the dish into the oven. Check every 20 minutes; you are looking for the chicken to start to break down, the sauce to thicken and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh not touching bone to register 165 degrees F.  
  6. Taste the sauce and add salt if needed. Finish with the juice of half a lime. Garnish with more cilantro and serve with rice and limes wedges on the side. 

Cook’s Note

Butterflying, also called spatchcocking, involves removing the backbone of a chicken so that it lays flat. A butcher can do this for you, or you can do it yourself: Using kitchen shears or a heavy knife, cut down around either side of the backbone and lift it out. Turn the chicken breast-side up and press down very firmly on the breast with both palms until you hear a crack and the chicken flattens.