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With the weather warming up here in the Chicagoland area, I can finally bust out my trusty charcoal grill and do my cooking outside. Together with my friend, Emily, I dusted off the old Weber and prepared for my first grill-out of the season.
Unfortunately, our grilling skills had gotten as rusty as my outdoor furniture—we just couldn’t get the damn thing lit. Once we realized that the flu was closed, the charcoal was wet, and the matches were crappy, we set out to buy a whole new set of supplies. An hour and a half later, we were finally sipping wine around a beautiful pile of crackling charcoal.
I live on the third floor of a refurbished house, so let’s just say it gets HOT in the summer when I turn on the stove. Subsequently, and despite the four flights of steps between my flat and the backyard, I like to cook outside as much as possible. I fill up cloth bags and my giant purse with as much food and supplies as possible, and then haul them up and down the stairs to my grill and back. It’s a workout, but it’s worth the picnic I get to have in my lovingly cared for backyard and garden.
In the coming summer months you’ll find lots of great grilling recipes here on Kitchen Bitch. To kick off the season, I’m giving you this decidedly different take on one of America’s favorite foods—grilled chicken. By marinating the chicken in yogurt and spices and then slathering it with harissa, a spicy chili-based North African condiment you can find in tubes or jars at many grocery stores, we’re taking this classic to a whole new level. I served it with grilled eggplant (see recipe below) and a light, fresh and healthy potato salad (check back Thursday for the recipe).
Yogurt-Marinated Grilled Chicken with Harissa
This recipe adapted from Alex Guarnaschelli can be marinated for a few hours and up to a day and a half before cooking. The yogurt tenderizes the chicken and adds richness. You can find harissa, a North African spice paste, at some grocery stores and specialty markets. If you can’t find it, click on the original recipe link above to learn how to make your own. Serves 4. For a print copy of this adapted recipe, click here.
½ c. whole-milk or Greek yogurt
1 (1 to 2-in.) knob fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1.5 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. red chili flakes
1 tsp. Kosher salt
4-6 skin-on chicken pieces, or boneless skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 lemon, halved
3-4 tsp. harissa, from a store-bought tube or jar
Marinate chicken. In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, ginger, cumin, chili flakes and salt. Whisk until smooth and pour into a baking dish. Coat the chicken in the yogurt mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a couple of hours to marinate.
Grill chicken. Preheat a very clean grill to medium. When the grill is hot, brush with oil. Remove the chicken from the yogurt, leaving any excess behind, and lay them out on the grill skin side down. Cook until the skin is brown and crispy then flip. You want to roast them, essentially, on the grill, and avoid “flaming” them or cooking them over too intense heat. That would dry them out. Grill the chicken until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thigh registers between 155˚F and 160˚F, about 35 to 40 minutes. If using boneless skinless chicken, this process will take less time, about 20-25 minutes.
Garnish and serve. Remove the chicken from the grill to a serving platter and sprinkle with lemon juice. Spread a little harissa on each piece, and serve immediately.
Substituting your favorite herbs for the ones called for here can easily modify this recipe. Herbs de Provence also makes a great eggplant topper. Serves 3-5, depending on eggplant size. To print a copy this recipe, click here.
1 medium eggplant, cut into ½ in. thick slices
Freshly ground pepper
1 tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Chopped fresh parsley
Remove bitter juices from eggplant. Arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer on a layer of paper towels on a cutting board. Salt generously on both sides with kosher salt. Let sit for 15-30 minutes You’ll immediately see all the bitter juices weep out onto the paper towels. Rinse the salt off the eggplants under running water. Put dry.
Marinate and grill. In a medium bowl, add a few teaspoons of olive oil, oregano, black pepper, and crushed red pepper. Stir to combine. Add eggplants and shake or stir to coat. Let sit in marinade until you’re ready to grill. Grill the eggplant until tender and browned, about 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Remove from grill and top with chopped fresh parsley before serving.