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Grilled Chicken in a North African Marinade

Grilled Chicken in a North African Marinade
The wine should subtly bring out the exotic character of the aromatics (anise, saffron, ginger and cinnamon) in this spicy grilled chicken. A fruity Gewürztraminer with a kiss of sweetness will do just that. Serve with couscous, a lemon wedge and assorted grilled vegetables. Dependable: off-dry Gewürztraminer. Daring: spicy, peppery Zinfandel.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbs. aniseed
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onion, including tender
      green portions
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. saffron threads, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbs. honey
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, or as needed
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 broiler chickens, each about 2 1/2 lb., split
  • Salt, to taste

Directions:

In a small fry pan over medium heat, toast the aniseed, shaking the pan often, until fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat, let cool slightly and transfer to a mortar. Grind coarsely with a pestle and transfer to a food processor. Add the cilantro, green onion, garlic, paprika, coriander, ginger, cinnamon, saffron and cayenne pepper. Using on-off pulses, pulse to combine. Add the lemon juice and honey and again pulse to combine. The mixture should be pasty. Transfer to a bowl and whisk in 1/2 cup olive oil until well incorporated, adding more as needed to coat. Season with generous grindings of black pepper. The marinade should be good and spicy.

Rinse the chickens and pat dry with paper towels. Place in a nonreactive container and coat evenly with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Prepare a fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat.

Bring the chicken to room temperature. Oil the grill rack or grill pan. Season the chicken with salt and place, skin side up, on the grill rack or skin side down in the pan, in batches, if necessary. Grill until well browned, about 6 minutes. Turn and continue to grill until the skin is well browned and caramelized and the meat is cooked through, 5 to 6 minutes more. The juices should run clear when a leg is pierced with a skewer.

Transfer to a warmed platter or individual plates and serve immediately.
Serves 4.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Lifestyles Series, Food & Wine Pairing, by Joyce Goldstein (Time-Life Books, 1999).