I’m kind of in a funk right now. Every time I sit down to write, I get distracted, or think that my theme is trite and not worthy of the keystrokes it takes to choke out another sentence.
Is that weird? Take this oven-roasted harissa chicken. When I made it (using the recipe from Ottolenghi, The Cookbook) I was utterly swooning. I was giddy with the aromas and having serious, caveman-esque fantasies about devouring one of these succulent thighs.
Then I sat down to write about it — and nothing. I couldn’t get the words out. They all sounded overdone. Writer’s block? Maybe. Thing is, I’ve come back to this post four or five times now and I’m still having the same issue. It can’t be the subject matter — I mean this chicken is tender and meaty with a little heat. It’s what my love child would taste like in chicken form. Too graphic?
Well, I suspect you’d have a similar reaction. And unlike so many chef-y recipes that go on for four pages, this one is do-able even in my little kitchen. Make the harissa marinade the night before and let the chicken pieces soak in it. The yogurt helps to tenderize the chicken and the bell pepper, chilies and spices give it a tangy heat.
The next day, place the chicken on a large rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with some thinly sliced red onion and fresh lemon and roast.
And look at the result. I mean, it’s gorgeous, right? And the aroma!!! If it were up to me, this would be a scratch-n-sniff website! Limitations of technology…
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
- 1/4 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, coursely chopped
- 2 mild fresh red chilies, seeded and coarsely chopped
- 1/8 teaspoon red chili flakes
- zest and juice of one lemon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons Greek Yogurt
- 6 chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
- 1 lemon, thinly sliced into 6 rounds.
- 1 small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced into wedges
- fresh cilantro leaves for garnish
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place whole bell pepper on a baking sheet and cook for 25 minutes or until skin blackens and flesh is tender. Remove from the oven and slip into a small paper bag. Roll up the end of the bag and let the pepper steam.
- In a small skillet toast the coriander, cumin and caraway seeds until fragrant, and beginning to sizzle and pop, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a mortar and pestle or spice grinder and grind or pulse to a powder.
- Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat and add the onion, garlic and fresh chilies. Cook 6-8 minutes until fragrant and slightly browned.
- Peel the skin and remove the seeds from the bell pepper. Add the bell pepper flesh to a blender. Add the spices, the onion mixture, red pepper flakes, lemon juice and zest, tomato paste and salt.
- Pulse until well combined. Pour the mixture into a bowl and add the Greek yogurt and stir.
- Place the chicken thighs in a gallon zip-top baggie. Add the harissa mixture. Squeeze most of the air out of the baggie and seal it. Work the harissa and chicken together until the thighs are well coated. Refrigerate overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 425.
- Place the chicken thighs, well spaced, on a large baking sheet. Scatter the onion pieces over and around the chicken. Top each chicken thigh with a slice of the lemon and roast for 5 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 and cook for another 12-15 minutes, until the chicken is almost cooked. Then, place it under the broiler for 2-3 minutes to give it extra color and cook it through completely. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro just before serving.
- Delicious with jasmine rice, couscous or crispy roasted potatoes.