I know that I blather on fairly often about how the flavor of a dish would be improved by grilling over an open flame. But this dish wasn't just written for the grill, it was literally made to be grilled (which makes sense because the original recipe was "Grilled Chicken Breasts with North African Spice Paste"). The combination of spices would be absolutely magical grilled along with a nice crispy skin that grilling can give you. Don't get me wrong - this was still a really nice and well-seasoned roast chicken breast without the flavor of the fire from the grill. It was also an insanely juicy roast chicken breast. But the grill would have punched the flavors up a few notches and made it really sing. And we got a little nervous searing off the chicken skin in the cast iron because we didn't want the spices to burn and turn acrid from the direct contact with the hot pan, which would be less likely over the indirect heat of the grill. You also wouldn't lose quite as much of the spice paste over the grill as you would in a pan. Either way, until I get a grill I am going to continue to make this recipe on the stove top because it is a really different and fun take on roast chicken breasts, which we make all the time, plus it involves ingredients that we always have in the apartment so it's easy to throw together.
P.S. If you haven't noticed yet, a busy December at work has caused a serious back log for me with posts. There will be a few more coming today and over the weekend. Barring any craziness I should be caught up after this weekend, but I make no promises.
Recipe after the jump!
Roast Chicken Breasts with North African Spice Paste
Adapted from Gourmet
8 (2-inch-long) dried hot red chiles, torn into small pieces
2 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp caraway seeds
2 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp black peppercorns
1 tbsp kosher salt
5 tbsp evoo
4 large chicken breast halves with skin and bone (about 3/4 pound each)
1 tbsp peanut oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Coarsely grind chiles, spice seeds, garlic, and peppercorns in grinder or with mortar and pestle, then stir together with salt and oil in a bowl to form a spice paste. Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Rub paste all over chicken. Heat a 12-inch cast-iron skillet (or other heavy, oven-safe skillet) over medium to medium-high heat. Add peanut oil. Once oil is hot, place chicken in the skillet skin-side down. Brown for about 3-5 minutes, keeping a close eye on the chicken so that the spices don't burn. Turn the chicken over and place skillet in oven. Roast chicken for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and add the butter to the pan. Swirl the butter around to melt. Return the pan to the oven. Roast 5 additional minutes (until chicken juices run clear when you pierce the chicken with a sharp knife).
Remove the chicken from the oven. Baste chicken with melted butter/pan juices. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.