One Pot Dinners: Harissa-Orange Chicken with Carrots & White Sweet Potatoes

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Harissa Orange Chicken

There are days I need to be able to throw everything in one pot and walk away, especially on weekdays when my evenings seem to disappear between working overtime, checking homework and doing laundry. Roasting a chicken with potatoes and veggies is one of the easiest meals you can put together and serve with a side salad, while still impressing your family or guests. I used a free Sunday afternoon to prepare my chicken, allowing it to marinate overnight until I was ready to cook dinner after work on Monday. You could even chop all of your vegetables the day before to save even more time.

There are as many ways to season chicken as you can dream up, so for this dish I took a Moroccan inspired approach. I got the idea from this recipe but adjusted to use chicken quarters and kicked up the flavors a bit. If you're cooking on a budget, look for chicken quarters packaged in bulk. It's very easy to use freezer bags to store the extra chicken, or just cook it all and shred or dice leftover chicken to use in sandwiches, salads, or other recipes. On this particular day, my grocery store had 5 lb packages of chicken quarters priced at $0.99/lb. Since I'm cooking for two, I was able to stretch a $5 package of chicken across three meals!  You can often find the same deals for chicken drumsticks or thighs, I just happen to think presentation wise it looks prettier to serve whole chicken quarters.

Let's talk about Moroccan spices for a minute, which can be any blend of flavors involving lemon, paprika, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, allspice, saffron, garlic, ginger, turmeric...I could go on because the list really is that long. It's a party in your mouth, trust me on this. The great thing about Moroccan cuisine is how versatile it is. Once you become familiar with this family of spices and herbs, it's easy to improvise when you need to season chicken, fish, beef, lamb, vegetables, beans, rice and couscous. For this roasted chicken dish, the seasoning is kept relatively simple with spicy Moroccan Harissa paste, earthy smoked paprika, and a sweet orange citrus note. Don't cheat yourself by substituting regular paprika! Smoked paprika, often used in Spanish cooking, has a rich red hue which adds beautiful color to your dishes, and the smoky aroma is amazing.

I picked up this jar of Harissa paste at my farmer's market, but you can also find it at specialty grocery stores or online. It is a blend of chili peppers, garlic and Moroccan spices that varies widely in intensity and flavor. You could also choose to make your own Harissa at home.

What makes this a one pot dinner is the addition of root vegetables which roast in the same pan and can be served alongside your roasted chicken. I had huge organic carrots on hand, organic white sweet potatoes, and onions. White sweet potatoes were a new experience for me and I will be coming back for more. I found them to be softer and slightly sweeter than the standard orange-fleshed sweet potatoes we typically eat.  Any combination of root vegetables would work well, so give this a try with what you have in your pantry.

4 chicken quarters, skin-on *
Moroccan Harissa
1 large orange, halved + zest
1 lemon + zest
2 Tbsp minced garlic
1 1/2 cups pulp-free orange juice
2 - 3 Tbsp smoked paprika
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp honey
2 tsp sea salt
Black pepper, to taste
2 white sweet potatoes
2 carrots
1 onion
Cilantro, for garnish (optional)

*There is plenty of marinade to add 2 more chicken quarters, but consider the size of the roasting pan you're using as they do need to cook in a single layer.

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 20 min (allow an additional 2 hrs up to 24 hrs for marinating)
Cook Time: 45 min
Equipment Needed: Large roasting pan, blender or food processor

In a small bowl, food processor or blender, juice 1/2 an orange, the whole lemon and add the zest from both. Reserve the other orange half. Stir in the smoked paprika, cinnamon, garlic, and Harissa paste. Because Harissa can be mild to extremely spicy, use your best judgement here. I used a couple tablespoons of very spicy paste, but I added a little bit at a time. Mix well and taste in between until you feel comfortable, keeping in mind that the orange juice and honey will cut the spiciness a bit too.

When you are satisfied with the base of the marinade, stir in the honey and 1 cup of orange juice. Again, it's okay to taste it here and adjust your seasonings as desired. Process the marinade in your blender, food processor or using a hand blender. With the machine running, slowly pour in the olive oil. The marinade will emulsify to a consistency similar to salad dressing after 15 - 30 seconds. Once done, stir in salt and pepper to taste.

Rinse the chicken in cold water and trim excess fat using kitchen shears or a sharp knife. Leave the skin on. Pour the marinade over your chicken and turn to coat well. Open up the space in between the flesh and the skin of the chicken to allow the marinade to seep in.

I transferred my chicken to a plastic bag and allowed it to marinate 24 hours. A large plastic or glass container also works fine for this purpose, just stay away from using metal. You want to let the chicken sit refrigerated, for a minimum of 2 hours but no more than a day is necessary.

Preheat your oven to 400°. Peel and chop your onions, sweet potatoes and carrots into large pieces. Also slice the 1/2 remaining orange into wedges, and then cut the wedges in half. Leave the rind on.

Here's an optional step you can use if you don't have time to marinate overnight, or you just want to add an additional flavor to the chicken.  Make a quick glaze using Harissa, a teaspoon or so of honey, lemon or orange juice and a dash of salt. It should be the consistency of barbecue sauce. Brush the skin of the chicken with the glaze prior to cooking, and about halfway through roasting time.

In a single layer, arrange the chicken in a large ungreased roasting pan. Add the chopped vegetables and oranges to the pan. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and season with salt & pepper. Pour1/2 cup orange juice into the bottom of the pan.

Roast 30 - 45 minutes or until skin is crispy and juices run clear from the thickest part of the thigh. Baste halfway through. I usually broil my chicken for 1-2 minutes at the end if it doesn't have the color I'm looking for. The carrots and potatoes should be fork tender and caramelized. Carefully remove the vegetables from the pan, transferring to serving plates.

Remove the chicken from the pan and allow to rest for a few minutes before plating or cutting. This helps to preserve the juices. Garnish with fresh cilantro and a roasted orange wedge.

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