Memorial Day! How quickly it seemed to come and pass…before I knew it, I was back in my cubicle, banging away at my keyboard, doling out soulless salesperson charm, and closing business. Why do holidays, no matter how long they actually are, feel so fleeting? It’s one of those mysteries of life, surely…
Whether truly a transient break or not, Memorial Day not only gives us an opportunity to honor our veterans, but I cannot remember the last time I ever had a Memorial Day pass by without having friends over and firing up the grill to herald in the beginning of summer. This year was no exception!
I first heard of harissa while watching last year’s “The Next Food Network Star” One of the finalists did his “promo” episode showcasing this rather interesting ingredient. A very common ingredient used in North African cuisine, harissa is a very flavorful, spicy paste comprised typically of chili peppers, cumin, coriander and garlic, although every region and household has their own variation. Some harissa also sport a slightly smoky flavor which I felt would make it a perfect pairing for grilling. I’m glad to say that I was right!
This month’s edition of Food & Wine just happened to feature this harissa chicken recipe and I decided to capitalize on my curiosity for harissa and my desire to grill for the weekend. I daresay, this was a match made in heaven. The harissa itself is ridiculously simple to prepare. If you can measure, chop, and use a mortar and pestle (for all you current and former chemist geeks, of which I am, you totally got this!), harissa is well within your grasp.
The resulting paste is every bit as flavorful as I imagined and when paired with the chicken and grilled, the results are mouthwateringly fantastic. Slightly smoky with a pleasant, but not overpowering, kick to it, this is definitely a keeper recipe to be made again and again!
Adapted from Food & Wine, June 2010
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
1 chipotle in adobo, minced
1 teaspoon adobo sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground caraway
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, lightly pounded
Salt and pepper to taste
In a mortar, combine paprika, chipotle, adobo sauce, garlic, cumin, caraway, and olive oil and pound until paste forms. If you do not have a mortar and pestle handy, finely mince chipotle and combine with adobo sauce, paprika, cumin, caraway, liquid smoke and olive oil in a small bowl. Finely mince the garlic and sprinkle on a little bit of salt. Using the flat of your knife, press and drag across the garlic until a paste forms…the salt will act as the abrasive to break down the garlic. Add to chipotle mixture and mix well until a paste forms. Season with salt and pepper.
Spread harissa all over chicken and store in a resealable ziplock bag. Rerigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight, turning bag over at least once.
Remove chicken 30 minutes before you prepare to cook it and allow to come to room temperature to ensure even cooking. Prepare grill for moderate heat. Lightly season chicken with salt and pepper. Grill over moderate heat, turning, until cooked through, about 9 minutes.