Harissa, a north African chile paste, is a condiment that I like having around. It's a little less forward than Asian chile pastes, and doesn't announce itself with quite as much fire. Harissa is little more mellow, which allows it to be used for marinating without fear of totally overpowering a dish.
Which is exactly its role in this brilliant dinner from Nigel Slater, when it's whisked with thick yogurt and olive oil to make a creamy, spicy marinade. Yogurt is a remarkably effective tenderizer, and when cooked, it causes the meat to brown beautifully while also ensuring it stays tender and moist. And it works: this was some of the juiciest chicken I've eaten in a long time. The dish is finished with a scatter of mint leaves, which wilt and gives an amazing fragrance.
I had enough time to let the chicken marinate for an hour or so, but it's not entirely necessary. Give it 10 minutes and it should work its magic.
- 4 boneless chicken thighs or drumsticks
- 2 generous tablespoons thick Greek yogurt
- 2 1/2 teaspoons harissa paste
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup torn mint leaves
Whisk the harissa into the yogurt in a bowl, then whisk in the olive oil. The result will be somewhat curdled, which is what it should look like. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then coat the chicken pieces in the marinade and allow to sit for at least 10 minutes.
Heat a broiler, grill, or grill pan until very hot, then cook the chicken with the skin side towards the flame to crisp up the skin. I cooked it about 75 percent of the way there with the skin towards the heat source to ensure a great crust, then turned it just to finish.
Just as the chicken comes off the heat, scatter with the mint leaves so that they wilt from the heat of the chicken (if cooking under the broiler, you can send it back under the flame for a few moments to soften them). Serve immediately while juicy and sizzling.