Thursday, February 12, 2009
Orange Harissa Chicken
Of course not.
It took me years to stumble upon one of the best flavor pairings ever -- harissa and orange. But, once I discovered it, I couldn't get enough. The sweet acidity of orange juice pairs so incredibly with the sharp heat of the harissa... I can't think of a more pleasant way to give my tastebuds a bit of a kick in the pants.
The flavor combination would probably be great all on its own. But, it's even better used as a marinade for a roasted chicken. The concept is fairly simple -- though you'll want to think ahead with this recipe, since the chicken is best when it's allowed to marinate for about 24 hours.
If you can, start off by making a bit of your own harissa paste. I generally start with a liberal handful of the harissa spice blend from World Spice Merchants.
I grind the spices roughly -- which expedites the rehydration process significantly, and gives you a smoother product to work with. I like my harissa just a bit chunky. But, you can grind as finely as you like, depending on your own tastes.
Add a bit of water -- a few tablespoons at a time -- until the spices rehydrate and begin to form a paste. Then, add a couple of cloves of fresh garlic to the mix.
Add a bit of olive oil to the harissa paste -- both to give it a bit of sexy mouth-feel AND to offer the oils in the spices yet another vehicle by which they can transport their memorable flavor. Once you have the paste together, you can store it in a jar in the fridge, topped with a light film of olive oil. for... quite a long time. A month or more, based on my experience.
Now, all you need is a 3-4 pound roasting chicken to get started.
Begin by mixing the harissa paste with some orange juice, orange zest, apple cider vinegar, and cinnamon. The mixture will be soupy, but that's not a bad thing. You'll loosen the skin of the chicken and pour that marinade right down underneath. Also pour some in the cavity... and pour the remaining "sauce" over the top. Marinate overnight.
When you take the chicken out after marination, you'll want to cut up an orange to stuff into the cavity. This offers some VERY lovely aromatics, as well as ensuring that you'll have an extraordinarily tender bird.
Roast at 350º until the bird reaches an internal temperature of 170º when tested in the deepest part of the thigh.
To prevent the chicken from over-browning, you can actually take the time to baste your chicken... but for the lazy among us, leaving the bird without a bit of extra attention works just fine. You'll note that OUR chicken got a bit dark around the edges. But, don't be fooled. The crisp skin encloses a succulent interior -- redolant with the flavors of the orange and chile, and backed up by the sweet kick of the cinnamon.
If you haven't already planned your own Valentine's Day feast, allow me to recommend you try a bit of orange harissa chicken. If this doesn't perk you up, there's really no hope!
Orange Harissa Chicken
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