Housewarming Harissa Chicken and Rice

6 05 2010

Moving house always shakes up the routine.  Starting a few weeks before the move, Nick and I tried to concentrate on eating up what we had in the fridge and pantry, to reduce the amount of stuff that had to be packed as much as possible.  I stopped getting the CSA share for a few weeks, and moved into a kitchen where there was no oven (there is now), a half-size fridge (getting replaced with a big one on Saturday, normalement), and two (only two!!!) induction burners, which have taken some getting used to.

Of course the days surrounding the move were fueled mostly by quick meals, some (Restaurant Raviolis) better than others (Subway).  The morning after we moved, breakfast consisted of green tea and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.  I’m telling you that because I think it’s hilarious, and because I think that anyone who’s ever moved a kitchen will understand.  For lunch that day we went to L’As du Fallafel, and dinner was at one of our new neighborhood’s sixty kajillion Indian places.  We had some very simple dinners the next couple of nights – tomato sauce with mushrooms over pasta, grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup – but soon the urge to cook came back.

Easy, fresh, and spicy!

It was fueled in part by this recipe for Spicy Citrus Shrimp I saw on The Kitchen Illiterate.  It sounded so easy, quick, and simple, and I’m always looking for excuses to bust out the harissa.  Plus, blood oranges were the weekly special at one of the fruit-and-vegetable shops down the street.  But moving can leave one feeling poor, and shrimp just sounded too rich for my blood.  So chicken it was.  I made a marinade using harissa, blood orange and lemon juice, garlic (my addition), salt, and olive oil.  I made just enough to coat the chicken, plus a little extra for saucy goodness further down the road.  Got some rice going, and grabbed a quick shower while it cooked (oh, the busy lives of Parisian pastry chefs). 

When I came back, cleaned and ready to sauté, I learned something about my new stove: if I try to put two pans on it at once, a) they don’t both fit comfortably, and b) the stove starts pulsing instead of delivering even heat.  I also learned that despite the fact that the control panel goes to 12 (which, by the way, boils a pot of water in under 3 minutes), the maximum total capacity is 20.  That means that if I have one burner on 12, the other can only go up to 8.  Having learned all this in the space of about 30 seconds, I dumped the chicken, sauce and all, in a screaming hot nonstick pan (brand new, because my old one didn’t play well – or at all – with the induction top) and savored the sweet-spicy aromas that came forth.  I added the rice and some baby spinach, stirred it all up, and scooped it into shallow bowls.  Pine nuts and juicy segments of blood orange became garnish.  Nick and I sat down to dinner, accompanied by a glass of something robust and red from the Languedoc, and for the first time since moving, really felt like we were home.

On this day in 2008: An Oasis for Tea

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Harissa is the New Chipotle

1 06 2009

For June, instead of focusing on a French region, I’ve decided to cover some of the regions outside France that have influence on or have been influenced by French cuisine.  First off, the cuisine of the Maghreb, which comprises Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia.  The traditional dishes of these former French colonies in North Africa are not at all hard to find or make in Paris.  Couscous is a staple of the modern French diet, and the once-exotic flavors of preserved lemons and harissa (a paste of ground chilis and other spices) are now relatively commonplace.

Hand-delivered harissa, Handmade merguez

I happen to work with a guy from Tunisia, and when I expressed an interest in spicy foods, harissa in particular, he offered to bring me some handmade harissa direct from the source.  How could I refuse?  Opening it, I was struck by its deep reddish-brown color and spicy-smoky scent.  This was a far cry from the bright orange condiment I see so often in Paris.  And it tastes wonderful.  Spicy, yes, but also rich and smoky with a pleasant deep sweetness.  Sound anything like everyone’s favorite smoked jalapeños?

On a recent trip to our closest Halal butcher (It bears repeating that those Halal guys really know their way around a roast chicken!), I noticed that they had handmade merguez for sale.  Merguez, for the uninitiated, is a spicy lamb sausage originating from, where else, North Africa.  So our Sunday morning meal was a done deal.  Merguez, scrambled eggs, and harissa – Breakfast of Champions!

Originally published on Croque-Camille.








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