I have a beef with chicken.

More often than not, either at home or eating out, I find that chicken ends up dry and tasteless. Often the culprit is boneless, skinless, chicken breasts—or, as I think of them, compressed sawdust slabs—but other parts of the bird are not without blame, either. As a result, I rarely order chicken (unless it’s fried, and especially if it’s fried at the Davis Cafe in Montgomery, Alabama), and I almost never cook it.

In fact, I can say with confidence that I have successfully cooked moist, lip-smacking chicken precisely six times in my entire life:
(1) curried chicken with couscous, which was delicious, except that my roommate later told me there were maggots in our raisins;
(2) some sort of faux tandoori chicken with a yogurt marinade;
(3) a roasted chicken with my friend C, after the two of us realized with shame that two good Jewish girls who love to cook really ought to know how to roast a chicken;
(4) chicken breasts stuffed with grapes and hazelnuts;
(5) harissa- and yogurt-marinated chicken, cooked on the stovetop; and
(6) harissa- and yogurt-marinated chicken, roasted in the oven with vegetables.

A game of chicken.

#6 won my heart. I had loved #5 but not the amount of smoke my cast-iron pan lets loose in my small apartment when I cook meat on the stovetop; #6 solves the problem beautifully and adds roasted chickpeas and onions, some of my very favorite things. It also solves the common chicken dryness problem by using thighs (rather than breasts) and by using a yogurt marinate, which tenderizes the meat. If this recipe can win over a chicken skeptic like me, normal people like you will be sure to love it.

Harissa-roasted chicken with chickpeas and red onions
Adapted from Sassy Radish

1/3 cup harissa [although remember that different harissas have wildly different spice levels, so be careful]
1/2 cup Greek or regular plain yogurt
1-2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 can chickpeas, rinsed, drained, and patted dry
2 red onions, each cut into 8 wedges
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine the harissa with the yogurt, lemon juice and cumin in a small bowl and set aside.

In a large resealable plastic bag, toss your chicken with the harissa marinade, letting the excess air out, so the marinade coats the chicken as much as possible. Let sit for one hour.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425°F and position a rack in the top third of the oven.

In a 9-by-13-inch roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet, toss the red onion and the chickpeas with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast both in the oven for 30 minutes, tossing once, the onion begins to brown and wilt.

Set the chicken up on top of the vegetables and season with salt and pepper. Roast the chicken for about 20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.

Serves 3-4.

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