Coscie di Pollo con Harissa
Little did I know when I used harissa to braise goat last October that I would become obsessed with the spicy sauce. Initially, I bought harissa from a Middle Eastern bakery that prepares the sauce on-site and provides it to a number of restaurants here in Chicago. Celia, though, suggested I make my own. Now, if you’ve been to her amazing blog, Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, you know that Celia makes just about everything and does so with a deft hand. Still, I was hesitant.
The truth is that many recipes say to use red or green chiles. Well, being a chile neophyte, I never know which ones to use and it’s not like there’s a big selection here. Then I came upon Mimi’s harissa recipe. (Take some time to get to know her blog, the Chef Mimi Blog, too, for some incredibly delicious recipes.) Her recipe took a different tack and I decided to give it a try.
Well, as luck would have it, when I went shopping for ingredients, there they were, a large display of red Fresno peppers. I bought a dozen, deciding I would take inspiration from both of their recipes, and since that afternoon, I’ve made several batches of harissa.
Over time, I’ve adjusted the spice mix to get to a flavor profile I prefer and now I’m working on the heat level. Right now, this sauce has a nice even heat when raw — there’s a roasted vegetable salad post in the works — but it dissipates a bit when cooked. Those with a higher tolerance for chiles may wish to include the peppers’ ribs and seeds, or, add another Habanero to the recipe below.
Like my harissa sauce, today’s chicken recipe is a work in progress, although I have prepared it in much the same manner 4 or 5 times now. In some ways, it reminds me of a cacciatore with a North African twist. I think you’ll find the recipe easy enough to follow without experiencing any problems.
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Chicken Thighs with Harissa
- 4 chicken thighs with skin and bones
- 3 tbsp harissa sauce – recipe follows
- 1/2 c chicken stock
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, sliced
- 1 orange bell pepper/capsicum, sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- about 12 oz (340 g) olive salad (See Notes)
- 12 cherry tomatoes
- 1/2 preserved lemon, chopped
- salt & pepper
- lemon zest
- mint leaves for garnish – optional
- Combine harissa, cinnamon, and chicken stock in a small bowl and set aside.
- Heat olive oil in a large frying pan with a cover over med-high heat.
- Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper and add to frying pan, skin-side down. Sauté until brown, 6 to 8 minutes, before turning over and browning the other side. Remove thighs from the pan.
- Remove all but 2 tbsp of fat from the pan. Add onions and peppers to the pan and sauté until onions are translucent, about 8 minutes. Add garlic for the final minute.
- Add olive salad and harissa sauce mix, stir, and heat through.
- Add thighs back to the pan, skin-side down, before adding the cherry tomatoes and preserved lemon. Cover the pan and reduce heat to medium.
- After 15 minutes, turn over the thighs so that they’re skin-side up. Do not cover the pan, giving the sauce a chance to thicken while the chicken finishes cooking.
- After the thighs have cooked for a total of 30 minutes, insert an instant read thermometer into the thickest part of the largest thigh. When the temperature reaches 165˚ F (75˚ C) the thighs are done.
- Remove to serving platter, sprinkle with lemon zest, and garnish with torn mint leaves, if desired.
- Serve immediately.
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I prefer to use a variety of olives here. Most of the groceries in this area offer olive salads, some even have more than 1 type. When they’re available, I’ll use the Mediterranean or Spanish olive salad. In today’s recipe, I combined both. Use whatever combination of olives you prefer and that are available. Use as little or as much as you like.
The chicken was served over tri-color “pearl” couscous that had been tossed with chopped scallions (spring onions) and sun-dried tomatoes.
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yield: 2 cups
- 12 Fresno peppers, seeds removed
- 3 whole roasted red peppers — well-drained if store-bought
- 1 Habanero chile, seeds removed
- 2 tsp caraway seeds
- 1 tbsp whole cumin seed
- 1 tbsp whole coriander seed
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 10 garlic cloves, smashed
- 30 mint leaves, more or less to taste
- 1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
- Place cumin seeds in a small frying pan over med-high heat. Keep the pan moving and toast the seeds until uniformly brown and fragrant — no more than 2 minutes. Immediately remove from pan and reserve. Repeat with coriander seeds and then the caraway. Once all are cool, place in spice mill or mortar and grind. (See Notes)
- Place the ground spices. Habanero and Fresno chiles, paprika, and salt into the bowl of a food processor and run until a thick paste has formed.
- Add the mint leaves and pulse the contents until mixed.
- Add the oil and process. If you prefer your harissa sauce to be thinner, add water until it reaches the consistency you like.
- Harissa is ready to use as-is, though it will be better after a few days, once the flavors have a chance to blend a bit.
Refrigerate in an airtight container. Celia recommends adding a thin coat of olive oil before storing. Harissa should be used within a couple of weeks.
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It is best to toast seeds of varying sizes separately. When toasted together, the smallest seeds will likely burn while you wait for the larger ones to toast.
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It’s déjà vu all over again …
Today’s blast from the past, swordfish served with salsa verde, carries with it a message. See those grill marks, Old Man Winter? We want to start grilling but can’t so long as you stick around. Take the hint, vacate the North, and head to the Southern Hemisphere, where they eagerly await your cooler temps and much-needed rain. The rest of you can click HERE to learn how to prepare this dish.
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Coming soon to a monitor near you …
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