Cinnamon-Roasted Chicken with Harissa Sauce

The name of this dish alone will get you out of any chicken rut, that is unless you are privy to cooking a lot of North African cuisine. Unlike any chicken recipe I have cooked this will have you look at cinnamon in an entirely new light and it will make you experience chicken in a refreshingly different way. And that’s an excellent thing when you’re all out of chicken ideas.

While the harissa sauce plays an integral role, it’s the cinnamon that is the star of the show. If you don’t take it in when reading the recipe then you will when preparing the marinade because 1 cup of cinnamon is a lot. It’s so much that every piece of chicken gets utterly doused in it. You will probably re-read the required quantity multiple times to check that you hadn’t slipped up, particularly when your house is taken over by the overwhelming smell of cinnamon buns. But stick it out because there is no mistake here and the result is sublime.

Prepare the marinade sauce

Place chicken and marinade ingredients in bag to marinate

Convinced that you are about to sit down to a meal of cinnamon buns and chicken, this is where the recipe surprises. Without sugar to accompany it the cinnamon comes into its own. It combines wonderfully with the juices from the meat to create a complex aromatic flavour that is delicate in taste. The harissa sauce incorporates the necessary level of sweetness to break up the ever so subtle bitterness from the spices. Its thick creamy texture accompanies the succulent chicken to utter perfection. A food processor makes its creation effortless and its one of those sauces that is worth having in your repertoire.

Roast the red pepper (I used 2 small ones) and garlic

Put the roasted pepper and garlic in a bag for 10 mins

Now the skins will come off easily

I love this recipe so much that its been made multiple times, even for a mid-week meal. I am so taken with the flavour combination that I also made this dish using fillets of sea bass to huge success. So what ever cooking rut you may find yourself in, I suggest copious amounts of cinnamon as your remedy. Or simply, this recipe.

The only photo of the harissa sauce

Cinnamon-Roasted Chicken with Harissa Sauce
Based on a recipe from Bon Apetit

• 1 cup olive oil
• 1/4 cup ground cinnamon
• 1 tablespoon salt
• 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper / chili powder
• 1 large red onion (or a regular one), sliced
• 8 chicken legs (leg and thigh jointed)

• 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
• 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
• 4 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
• 4 large red bell peppers
• 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 2 teaspoons dried paprika powder

1. Mix together the olive oil, cinnamon, salt and cayenne pepper, and sliced onion
2. Place chicken legs and thighs in a large resealable plastic bag. Pour oil mixture over; seal bag. Turn bag to coat chicken with marinade. Chill overnight.
3. Preheat oven to 200C/400F. Transfer chicken, skin side up, to a rimmed baking sheet or a casserole pan and roast for 45 minutes to an hour or until juices run clear.
4. HARISSA: (can be done 1 day ahead) Preheat oven to 200C/400F and place peppers and garlic cloves on a lined baking sheet. Roast until skin is blistered and charred, about 15 to 20 minutes.
5. Remove from oven and place in a paper or plastic bag and leave to rest for 10 minutes (this makes removing the skins even easier).
6. Meanwhile heat a pan with a little oil and add the coriander and caraway seeds. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat.
7. Remove the skins of the pepper and the garlic. De-seed and roughly chop the pepper. Place garlic and pepper in the food processor together with the olive oil, sugar, paprika, coriander and caraway seeds. Pulse until and smooth sauce forms and season with salt and pepper.
8. This can be covered and stored in the fridge one day in advance.

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