My Harissa Chicken is not Your Harissa Chicken

Both yours and mine could have amazing flavor. But the chili and spice blend that goes into it will not be the same. And the next time I make mine, it won’t be an exact replica of what I made today. The chili peppers I had ripe from the garden today are not going to be just like what will be available next time.

Today was the first time I ever made harissa chicken. I grew up in a time and place when an adventurous cooking idea was to try canned cream of celery instead of cream of mushroom or chicken in a casserole. We have food choices that were unknown in most American homes of the 60’s and 70’s. Harissa chicken is one of those and its one I plan to keep in the repertoire.

An abundance of peppers and not enough tomatoes for salsa are what got me looking at harissa recipes. Mine started with what I had on hand.

I made the harissa sauce the day ahead and let the flavors blend. I blistered some Anaheim peppers in cast iron on the stove top. While the burner was hot, I toasted the coriander and caraway seeds, then ground them with a mortar and pestle. Next everything went into the blender: Roasted Anaheim peppers, dried shishito peppers (like those in the mason jar), one seeded jalepeno, garlic, mint, a small tomato, olive oil, salt, and lemon juice. Like pesto, it blends into a sauce quickly if there is enough liquid.

Since I planned ahead, I also soaked garbanzo beans overnight. This ensures no bpa’s from canned beans. The overnight soak also makes beans less gassy and more digestible. Another benefit is that the cooking water (not the soaking water) can become a flavorful broth to cook couscous or rice in. I added cumin, pepper, peanut oil, a jalepeno, turmeric, garlic, and salt to the water that I cooked the beans in. They were ready after 35 minutes of a slow boil.

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Before cooking the beans I mixed some home fermented kefir with 3 Tablespoons of the harissa sauce. I marinated skinless chicken breasts in that for an hour. While the beans cooked I prepared onion and butternut squash wedges to roast with the chicken and beans. I had made about a cup of harissa sauce and mixed what remained with the onion, squash, and beans.

I put the beans and vegetables in a preheated oven at 425 F and roasted 10 minutes. The marinated chicken went on top and it all baked together another 35 minutes. While that was in the oven, I sliced some dried apricots and added to the bean broth. When it came to a boil I added the a package of couscous and cooked as directed. It looked like this:

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And the old casserole dish that contained many cream of mushroom soup dishes in its earlier days ended up looking like this:img_20160912_174916934

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