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Off the Shelf: Harissa and Yogurt Baked Chicken

Amazingly enough, for a dish that features the spicy North African chili paste called harissa, this recipe was bland and boring. I have a few suggestions for how to liven it up.

Most of Off the Shelf 's recipes have been quite flavorful, so I was surprised at how "blah" this chicken tasted. It needs about twice as much harissa or chili paste as called for, and a hefty increase in the cumin also helps the flavor. My revision reflects these changes.

Donna Hay doesn't recommend that you marinate the chicken in the yogurt-spice mixture, but I found that a half-hour rest at room temperature results in much tenderer chicken, since the acids in the yogurt help to tenderize the meat.

I think the food stylist cheated with the photo of the finished dish; the chicken looks charbroiled, as though it was cooked on the grill, not in the oven as the recipe states. I highly recommend grilling, if you can. The flavor is superior and the chicken looks better when it's deeply browned, almost charred. That's a result you can only achieve by cooking over an open flame. The chicken that comes out of the oven gets sort of gold, but it's nowhere near as appetizing as the grilled version.

3 1/2 to 4 lb chicken, quartered
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 cup plain yogurt, preferably full-fat
2 Tbsp harissa or chili paste
1/3 cup shredded mint
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt and 1 tsp ground black pepper

Make deep slits in the chicken pieces. Combine the cornstarch, yogurt, harissa or chili paste, mint, cumin, salt and pepper. Spread the yogurt mixture all over the chicken. Let the chicken rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, or heat a gas or charcoal grill. Place the chicken on a rack in a baking dish. or place on the grill. Cook for 35 to 45 minutes or until crisp, golden, and cooked through. Serve warm or cold.



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