Saturday, November 6, 2010

Faux-Moroccan Roast Chicken with Harissa Sauce and Couscous with Fresh Cilantro and Lemon Juice

So I must admit that I am rather proud of myself for sticking with my resolution to make more Asian recipes this week.  And here I am making Moroccan food, which I also mentioned that I had been wanting to make.  I seem to be on something of a Moroccan (or faux-Moroccan because I'm certainly no expert on Moroccan food) kick lately.  Not too long ago we made Quasi-Moroccan Turnip Greens and Moroccan Meatloaf.  And before that I made some Crispy Roasted Chickpeas with a homemade Moroccan spice blend.  We also made a Moroccan carrot salad, but I will have to post about that later.  I really enjoy the flavor combinations in Moroccan food - the sweetness of cinnamon, the smokey cumin, the spicy cayenne, the floral coriander...  It all just works so beautifully together.  I go through spice phases and this seems to be my current phase.  

Anyway, you have to try this chicken.  I know that I am always roasting chicken breasts and then posting about how wonderful they were, but these were truly spectacular - moist, juicy and very flavorful.  The light dusting of flour on the chicken helped to turn the skin nice and crispy by forming a light crust.  Otherwise I think that the skin would have remained flaccid and gummy from soaking overnight in the marinade.  The chicken was really lovely when dipped into the spicy and vinegary harissa sauce.  It would have been good without the harissa, but the harissa really gave it that something extra.  Plus it gave it some heat and I just can't help but to enjoy spicy things.  The couscous was pleasant, but a little bland. Then again, I purposefully looked for a couscous recipe that sounded a little bland because I figured that the thicken would be very flavorful and I didn't want competing flavor profiles.  Really all I wanted with the couscous was a nice side that would complement or balance out the chicken.  And I got that.  If I were to serve the couscous with a slightly less flavorful main dish, I would probably cook the couscous in chicken stock (instead of water), add more lemon juice/zest, and perhaps toss a bit of cayenne pepper in with the couscous while it steamed.

Recipes after the jump!

Faux-Moroccan Roast Chicken with Harissa 

2 tbsp evoo
1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt 
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp sugar
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 large bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tbsp peanut oil

Mix evoo, cinnamon, salt, cumin, coriander, cayenne, sugar and garlic together in small bowl. Place chicken breasts in a large resealable plastic bag. Pour in marinade. Seal bad and massage chicken to evenly coat with marinade. Marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 475°F. Transfer chicken to plate, shaking off excess marinade. Sprinkle chicken lightly all over with flour. Heat peanut oil in large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken to the pan skin side-down. Cook until golden, about 3 minutes per side, and then throw the pan in the oven with the chicken skin-side up. Roast chicken in the oven until cooked through, about 15-20 minutes (depending on the size of the chicken breasts). Chicken is done with juices run clear.

Serve with harissa and couscous.

Couscous with Fresh Cilantro and Lemon Juice
January 2010

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 2/3 cups water
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 1/2 cups plain couscous
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and turmeric; stir 1 minute. Add 1 2/3 cups water, lemon peel, and 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt; bring to boil. Remove pan from heat. Stir in couscous. Cover; let stand until liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Fluff with fork; mix in cilantro and lemon juice. Season with pepper and additional coarse salt, if desired.

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