Amanda Ray (@chefaray) and I worked together at Auberge du Pommier way back in 2005, under Chef Jason Bangerter. We had a great team back then, with many of the cooks and sous chefs we worked with going on to fantastic careers. Amanda was the type of cook you immediately had respect for. She was fast, detailed, and a very good cook. Her enviable work ethic has led her to rise through the ranks of the Oliver Bonacini company to her current position as Chef de Cuisine of Le Mount Stephan Events and Hotel. (https://www.lemountstephen.com/). I am so proud to call her a good friend.
Yogurt and Harissa Marinated Chicken
During this time, I, like so many others, have been cooking in my kitchen more than ever before…such a rarity for most chefs. I see so many friends on social media (chefs and non) cooking, enjoying (…well not always) and finding pleasure making a meal, taking the time to slow down.
Food is so many things but often we cook our feelings, going to comfort foods in times of stress or anxiety. I know I went through my repertoire of my family comfort food favs. Then I moved on to travelling to other countries to feature cuisines from places I’d either been to or ones that are on my list of places to go next. That’s the only travelling I’ll be doing for some time, I think.
The dish I wanted to make was a harissa & yogurt marinated chicken. I love harissa, it’s a hot chili paste that is commonly found in North African cooking, mainly Moroccan, Algerian, and Tunisian cuisines. You can purchase it in Middle Eastern stores generally. Sanagan’s sells the locally made El Tounsi brand https://www.eltounsifoods.com/ , or you can make your own version. I also love using yogurt as a marinade, the lactic acid in fermented dairy products, such as yogurt and buttermilk, react with the proteins at the molecular level. It also creates a great texture and flavourful crust; the dairy caramelizes beautifully.
I don’t have a BBQ but there is something incredible about grilling meats that have been marinated with yogurt, it’s that combination of caramelized yogurt and that smoky flavour. Next up, I just need to buy a BBQ & life will be complete!
For Harissa (if making it yourself)
Makes approximately 1 cup
2 tsp coriander seeds (or 1¼ tsp of ground coriander)
1 tsp cumin seeds (or 1¼ tsp of ground cumin)
1 tsp caraway seeds (or 1¼ tsp of ground caraway)
2 tbsp paprika
1 tsp red chili flakes
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled and seeded
To taste sea salt
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to coat the top of the harissa
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- In a small bowl, combine the coriander seeds, cumin seeds and caraway seeds. Spread the spices on a sheet tray and toast in the oven for 1 to 2 minutes; you should faintly detect the scent of the spices. Remove the tray from the oven and set aside to cool. Add the paprika and chili flakes to the spice mix.
- Using a mortar and pestle (or, alternatively, a food processor), grind the garlic cloves until they become a paste, and then add the red bell pepper. Season with salt, and then add the spices and the 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil and blend well. When blended, transfer the harissa to a container and top with some additional olive oil. This will keep for 3 to 6 weeks, covered, in the refrigerator.
1/4 cup whole milk yogurt (or labneh*)
One knob fresh ginger (1 to 2-inch), peeled and grated
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp red chili flakes
¼ tsp espelette pepper (optional)
to taste Kosher salt
1 whole chicken, 3.5-4 lbs, cut in half (ask your butcher to help you with this)
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 lemon, halved
2 tsp harissa (see recipe above or use store bought.)
to garnish washed and picked leaves of mint, coriander, or sliced green onion
- In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, ginger, ground cumin, chili flakes, espelette pepper, harissa, olive oil and salt. Whisk until smooth and pour into a baking dish.
- Lay the chicken halves, skin-side up, in the yogurt mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a couple of hours to marinate. (You can make the marinade the day before and marinate overnight).
If cooking in the oven:
- Pre-heat oven to 400°F and line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or foil for easy clean-up. Place marinated chicken skin-side up, drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt & pepper. Turn temperature down to 375°F.
- Roast the chicken until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thigh registers between 155°F and 160°F, 35 – 40 minutes.