To avoid congealey failure and maximize delicious success, follow these tips when cooking with yogurt:
- Don’t bake with it unless it’s thinned out and don’t heat it quickly or the concentrated milk proteins will separate from the remainder of the whey, never to unite again.
- Don’t use aluminum cook or bake ware when dealing with yogurt, the acidity reacts unpleasantly to the metal.
- Do bring it to room temperature before you add it to the dish, so that the temperature shock is not too great (otherwise it might curdle and separate), and add it to the dish spoon by spoon and at the very end of cooking.
- Do substitute yogurt for buttermilk or heavy cream, two things you might not readily have in your fridge (who has buttermilk in their fridge?) Just water it down slightly, if needed to match the consistency.
- Do put it in your ice cream maker with some fresh fruits, it freezes fast and creamy. Plus the healthy bacteria will even survive a freezing!
- Do marinate! This is one instance where yogurt’s clinginess is a good thing. You can use less yogurt in a traditional marinade but still get the same tenderizing and moisture and flavor-enhancing effect.
2 cups plain yogurt
1/2 large onion, chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
salt & freshly ground pepper
Once you have all that in the blender, you can choose your own adventure:
Option 1 Lemon-Pepper: “The Classic”
1 clove of garlic, roughly chopped
Juice from two lemons
1 really nice squeeze of honey
Even more black pepper (about 10-15 grinds)
Option 2 Tandoori: “The Crowdpleaser” (from Bon Appetit)
1 cup cilantro leaves (no need to chop since it’s going in the blender)
2 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon garam masala (McCormick now sells this — it’s an Indian spice blend that’s kind of sweet)
1 2-inch piece ginger
juice of one lime
Option 3 Middle Eastern: “The Middle Easterner”
1/2 cup fresh oregano, stems removed
1 clove garlic
juice from one lemon
2 teaspoons cumin
Option 4 Mustard and Herb: “The Pantry Special”
½ cup Dijon mustard
leaves from a couple sprigs of thyme
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Option 5 Chutney: “The Cheater”
1/2 cup your favorite chutney (these are my favorite)
1/2 cup cilantro
Whichever direction you’ve chosen:
Give the ingredients a good whirl in the blender, then pour into a large freezer bag along with your meat — 2 to 3 pounds chicken thighs or breasts (pounded flat between two pieces of wax paper), drumsticks, or…here’s some breaking news: SHRIMP! I’ve discovered that a good flavorful yogurt marinade is a great way to kick up the sometimes bland frozen shrimp we pick up in the Northeast. (The photo above was made with the tandoori marinade — the dipping sauce is chutney mixed with lime and…more yogurt!)
Marinate your chicken or shrimp (thawed if frozen) in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or overnight. Build a medium fire in a charcoal grill, or heat a gas grill to medium-high. Brush grill grates with oil. Scrape excess marinade off chicken or shrimp. If you are making shrimp, thread them onto skewers. Grill chicken turning once, until browned and cooked through, 3-4 minutes per side. The shrimp will take a little less time, about 2-3 minutes a side.