Thursday, July 15, 2010

Chicken with Harissa

Smitten Kitchen's Carrot Salad with Harissa and Mint is absolutely out of this world.  Its got everything: sweet crunchy carrots, spicy Harissa dressing, cool fresh mint and salty feta.  Its honestly one of the best vegetables I have ever eaten.  It was one of those recipes I knew I had to make from the instant I saw it online when I was at school.  I wrote it down in my little blue notebook of recipes and waited until I could get into a kitchen.  When I made it for the first time at home, I had a food processor to shred the carrots and the recipe was a breeze  It was gone halfway through dinner.  The next time I made it I doubled the recipe, and we still licked the bowl clean.  I haven't made it since moving to Boston for lack of a machine to grate about a pound of carrots (a weak excuse, I know).

But yesterday we had a bag of carrots sitting in the fridge and the temptation was finally more than I could bear.  I ran out to Whole Foods and grabbed a can of Harissa (a Morrocan spice paste).  I didn't have a food processor, but I had Liz and a box grater.  I promised her her efforts would be worth it.

I wanted to make chicken to with the salad, so I decided to use the dressing as inspiration for a marinade (why mess with something that works?).  I left out the caraway seed from the salad and chicken because I didn't have any.  I also left out the sugar and the parsley from the marinade.  I cut two boneless chicken breasts into four large chunks, then marinaded them for 30 minutes.  I put the chicken on a baking sheet and poured on the rest of the marinade.  I baked them in a 425 degree oven for about 15 to 20 minutes, until just cooked through.

We ate the chicken and carrot salad with brown rice, the drippings from the chicken drizzled over everything.  The chicken was delicious and juicy, with just the right level of spice.  The mint leaves from the marinade crisped up in the oven, and offered a great contrast of texture.  The salad and chicken had many of the same flavorings,  but they didn't seem redundant.  The chicken was warm and spicy, while the salad was chilled and sweet.  By the end of the dinner we were eating the salad straight out of the bowl.  I wished we had made more for leftovers.  Then again, we probably would have eaten that the same night too.

Harissa Chicken
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen's recipe for Carrot Salad with Harissa

2 boneless chicken breasts cut into 3-4 large chunks
1/4 c. canola oil
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp. harissa
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp. salt
1 large clove of garlic, minced
2-3 tbs. roughly chopped freshmint

1. Preheat the oven to 425.  Stir together all ingredients except for the chicken.  Mix well.

2. Add chicken to the marinade.  Turn to coat.  Let sit for at least 30 minutes.

3. Spread the chicken out on a baking sheet.  Pour any extra marinade on top.  Bake until cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes.  Salt to taste.

Serves 2

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