I’ve always loved the flavors of Middle Eastern food. And I’ve always loved BBQ. For this dish I married these two very distinct cuisines and the result is something quite wonderful. The marinade and wood smoke came together perfectly and we were able to serve some perfectly juicy chicken. Slightly spicy, smoky, paired with the freshness of the lemon and pepper, this dish and its complex flavors are a keeper! Pair this dish with a fruit-driven Zinfandel, a Pinot Noir, or a cold beer- such as König Pilsener or Shiner Light Blonde.
Harissa is a Tunisian hot chili pepper paste, very popular in Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, but also in countries such as France and Germany, where I grew up. For this dish I didn’t use the paste, but a Harissa dry spice mix that wouldn’t overpower the other ingredients. You can find this Mid Eastern spice mix in better grocery stores. The mix includes dried chillies, paprika, garlic, coriander, cumin, and sea salt.
Ingredients (serves 4):
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
3 tbsp harissa spice mix
2 red bell peppers
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
8 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
10-12 of chicken thighs, drumsticks
Canola oil for grilling
Place the red pepper on a baking sheet in the oven, about 6 inches from the heat source. Turn occasionally until the skin is charred, about 8 to 12 minutes. Remove the peppers and let them cool down before removing the stems, seeds, and skin.
While the peppers are cooling, mix the Harissa, cumin, coriander and salt in a small bowl. Squeeze 1 to 2 lemons for about 1/3 cup of lemon juice. Set aside in a separate bowl.
Combine the peppers, the spices, the lemon juice, onion and garlic in a food blender. With the blender running, add the olive oil in a slow and steady stream until the contents are a smooth puree.
Put half of the marinade into a large bowl and add the chicken. Keep the other half of the marinade in a separate bowl to use later. Mix the chicken and marinade until the chicken is well coated. Cover the bowl and place into the fridge for an hour and half. Remove and let rest for another half hour before grilling. In the meantime, soak your wood chips.
Place your wood chips in a smoke box (I’m using a gas grill). Brush your grill with Canola oil. Preheat one side of the grill on high. Place the coated chicken on the cold side of the grill, skin side down. Smoke for 20 minutes, repeatedly basting with additional marinade. Flip the chicken pieces and smoke for another 20 minutes, basting a few times. Remove when the meat reaches 165°.
Tip: I like to turn ignite the fire and grill the chicken for a short time at the very end, just to give the meat some extra color and flavor. Be careful since there will most likely be flare-ups. Then remove the chicken quickly.
We served the chicken with some roasted broccoli and some corn from the grill. Don’t worry if you can’t finish all the chicken. The left overs are tasty as well, even cold!