Have you ever opened a food magazine, seen a photograph of a dish and knew you had to make it as soon as possible or you’d die? That is what happened to me with this recipe from Saveur Magazine issue No. 127. I read the ingredient list and I was a goner, and on my way to the market with my list in hand. The photo was beautiful, but what really cinched it was that the recipe was by Suzanne Goin of A.O.C, Lucques, Tavern and The Hungry Cat fame. She, who in 2006, won the James Beard Award for Best Chef: California. Beginning in 1995, she spent 2 years at Campanile, ending up as executive chef. Campanile is where I did my cooking internship for culinary school and looking back, my last day, April 4, 1995, may have been Suzanne’s first day there. I recall a young waif getting the grand tour by the kitchen manager. It’s a small world, isn’t it?
This recipe has four parts prepared separately and plated together to be served. There is a carrot and onion puree that is like no carrot you have ever tasted. An oil-cured black olive and shallot vinaigrette, and an orange juice and butter sauce with orange segments that makes you groan. And finally, chicken breasts pounded thin, spread with harissa and grilled. I did some research on harissa and found that this North African spicy chili condiment has hundreds of permutations that come in jars, cans and tubes. I had never used purchased harissa and had no idea which was the best, so I decided to go to the ethnic markets in my area and see what I could find.
Starting on the far left, No.1, is Mezzine Harissa Spread from the Netherlands. It contains Spanish peppers 45%, onion, tomato, salt, tomato juice, olive oil, tomato puree, garlic, herbs and spices. It was good, but had too many chili pepper seeds and not a pure chili flavor. I got it at Bristol Farms in Manhattan Beach.
No.2 Mehdia Harissa from Morocco contains hot pepper, sweet pepper, spices, carrots and vegetable oil. It was salty and complex. I got it at the Persian Shayan Market at 3801 W. PCH, in Torrance.
No.3 Piquant Harissa from Morocco contains hot peppers, sweet peppers, carrots, vegetable oil, salt, caraway, coriander and garlic. This paste was delicious; complex and a good balance of spices and flavorings. I ate it with a spoon out of the can. I got it at the International Hawthorne Market at 24202 Hawthorne Blvd, Torrance.
No.4 Le Phare du CapBon Harissa from Tunisia contains red hot pepper, garlic, coriander, salt and caraway. It was bland and meh, especially after tasting the first three products. I got it at the Persian market along with No.2.
No.5 DEA Harissa from France contains rehydrated chilli 52%, water, salt, garlic, coriander and caraway. This paste tasted musty and flavorless, like dead tree leaves. While it had a very pretty tube, I immediately threw it in the trash, because I knew I would never use it. I got it at Bristol Farms.
The winner was No.3, Piquant Harissa, if you hadn’t already guessed. I froze No.1 & 2 in ziplock bags for future use. I also tossed No.4. If you have a favorite brand of harissa, let me know where to get it. I think this is now my new favorite ingredient and I will be looking for more ways to use it. Stay tuned.
I used my grill pan to cook the pounded chicken breasts. Most of them were quite large and I cut them in half. They were cooked on one side, placed on a foil-covered sheet pan cooked side up, slathered with harissa and finished in the oven.
It took me all day to make all the components of this dish, and by the time I got done it was dark outside. I didn’t have enough energy to set up my studio lighting, so I decided to take everything to my friend Michele’s house the next day and share it and shoot it there. I arranged her plate first, so she was eating the whole time I was shooting. I was hearing comments like,”OMG, these carrots are like soft clouds! I love these oil-cured olives…so salty. OMG this is so amazing! I love the orange butter sauce with the harissa taste. Can I have more of the carrots? Yummm.” You get the idea. A resounding success.
Moroccan Chicken with Harissa, Carrot Puree, Black Oil-Cured Olives and Orange Butter Sauce
Recipe by Suzanne Goin adapted from Saveur Issue No. 127
6 boneless skin-on chicken breasts, pounded ¾-inch thick
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Black pepper, to taste
4 cups chicken broth or two 14.5-ounce cans + ¼ cup water
2 pounds carrots, peeled, ends trimmed, cut into ¼-inch rounds
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large white onion, minced (I used my mini chopper)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ cups fresh orange juice, about 4 medium navels
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in small pieces
2 peeled oranges, segmented
1/2 cup harissa
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 teaspoons harissa
3 ounces greens, such as dandelion greens
1/2 cup pitted oil-cured black olives, roughly chopped
1 large shallot thinly sliced
1. If pounded chicken pieces are very large, cut in half. Put chicken into a dish two pieces at a time and drizzle with 1 tablespoons olive oil. Repeat for 3 layers. Season each layer with salt and pepper. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to grill.
2. Bring broth to boil in 6 quart pan over medium-high heat. Add carrots and cook until tender, 15-30 minutes. Add additional water to cover carrots if necessary. Drain.
3. Heat ½ cup olive oil in a dutch oven or heavy bottomed large pot over high heat. Add onions and cook until soft, 5-10 minutes. Stir frequently. Add carrots and cook for 6-8 minutes. Stir frequently. Puree in a food processor. Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.
4. Heat orange juice in a 2-quart pan over medium-high heat Cook until reduced by half, 12-15 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in butter a few pieces at a time. Season with salt and pepper. Add orange segments; set sauce aside. Keep warm.
5. Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
6. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Add chicken, skin side down. Cook until grill lines appear and chicken is cooked ¾ through, 8-10 minutes. Transfer chicken, skin side up, to a foil covered baking sheet. Spread with ½ cup harissa. Bake until cooked, 6-8 minutes.
7. In a bowl, whisk together remaining 4 tablespoons oil and harissa with sherry vinegar. Add greens, olives and shallots. Toss.
8. Divide carrot puree between 6 plates, top each with salad and a chicken breast. Spoon orange butter sauce over each breast. Serve immediately.