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Spice-Roasted Chicken with Cilantro Yogurt Pesto
March 7, 2010, 10:13 pm
Filed under: Cook, Eat | Tags: , , , , , , ,

I had a gigantic container of plain yogurt in my fridge that I needed to use up, so I started looking for recipes on Epicurious that used yogurt as one of the main ingredients. I stumbled upon a recipe for Spice-Roasted Cornish Hens with Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce, and boy, am I glad. Instead of using hens, I used bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs and legs I had in my freezer, used pre-ground cumin and coriander powder, skipped the sour cream, and added a bit of lemon to the yogurt sauce for tartness. The prep took me no more than 15 minutes, and the total cook time in the oven was about 30 minutes. It’s simple. It’s quick. And it’s tasty.


  • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs and/or legs
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon coriander
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • Pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 10-ounce cucumber, peeled, cubed, and cored (remove insides with seeds to reduce moisture)
  • 3/4 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (use Greek yogurt if you want more creaminess)
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 12 fresh cilantro sprigs
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled (this is very garlicky and spicy, which I like, but you may reduce the garlic if you’re squeamish)


  • Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel on all sides and under the skin. Mix cumin, coriander powder, and kosher salt together in a small bowl. Rub spice generously on and under chicken skin, and on the underside of the chicken. (If desired, you may season the chicken a day in advance; the salt will help draw some of the moisture out of the chicken and make for a crispier skin.)
  • Preheat to 450°F. Arrange chicken, skin side up in an oven-safe dish. Roast chicken until cooked through, about 30-35 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh reads at least 165°F. Remove chicken from oven once after 20 minutes and add a 1/2 tablespoon pat of butter on top of each piece of chicken.
  • For the sauce, combine yogurt, cilantro, garlic, lemon juice, and cucumber in a food processor or blender. Blend until almost smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Place chicken on plates and drizzle with sauce. Garnish with leftover cilantro sprigs.

I love this sauce. I reserved the leftover sauce and had it the next morning on my grilled muenster cheese, prosciutto, and egg sandwich. The fresh garlic gives it a little bite, the lemon is tangy, and the cilantro refreshing. I am going to put it on absolutely everything. I would not, however, recommend eating it before a night of passion or any activity that might induce heavy breathing. There’s a whole lotta garlic, so you’re probably not going to be making any new friends. On the upside, you probably won’t be attacked by vampires, either.

If you’re not a just-chicken kind of person, I’d suggest a side of couscous or lemon orzo pasta.


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