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Harissa-Marinated Grilled Chicken

In this dish, chicken is treated with a marinade that is boldly accented with harissa, a fiery Moroccan spice paste. Toasted coriander, with its hints of lemon and caraway, and musky, intense cumin add their fragrance and complexity to the flavorful dish. Cooking on a hot grill adds a smokiness that works well with all of the robust seasonings.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp. cumin seeds, toasted 
  • 2 tsp. coriander seeds, toasted 
  • 2 red bell peppers 
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice 
  • 1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped 
  • 4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped 
  • 2 Tbs. harissa 
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt 
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 1 chicken, about 4 lb., cut into 9 pieces 
  • Canola oil for grilling  

Directions:

Using a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder, finely grind the cumin and coriander seeds. Set aside.

Position an oven or broiler rack about 6 inches from the heat source and preheat the broiler.

Place the peppers on a rimmed baking sheet and broil, turning the peppers occasionally, until the skins are charred, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool. Remove and discard the skins, seeds, ribs and stems. In a food processor, combine the peppers, spice mixture, lemon juice, onion, garlic, harissa and salt. With the motor running, add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream and process to a smooth puree. Pour half of the pepper mixture into a large nonreactive bowl.

Add the chicken pieces to the bowl with the pepper mixture, turn the pieces to coat evenly and then cover the bowl. Pour the remaining pepper mixture into a small nonreactive bowl and cover. Refrigerate both bowls for at least 2 hours or up to 8 hours. Remove the bowls from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour before grilling the chicken.

Prepare a grill for indirect grilling over high heat. Brush the grill grate with canola oil.

Remove the chicken from the bowl, allowing the marinade to cling. Discard the rest of the marinade. Place the chicken, skin side down, on the cool side of the grill. Cover the grill and cook the chicken, basting occasionally with the pepper mixture in the small bowl, for 20 minutes. Turn the chicken pieces over, cover the grill and continue to cook, basting the chicken occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the breast meat registers 170°F, about 20 minutes more.

Transfer the chicken to a warmed platter and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma New Flavors for Chicken, by Rick Rodgers (Oxmoor House, 2008).