Judi and Nicole know how to warm up what’s turned out to be one of the coldest winters on record around these parts. They also know how to make January all about a little self-love, in the food sort of way, you know. I’m just back from Salt Lake City and cannot wait to mix up this stewy dish. -Maggie
Oh man, I love this time of year. Please don’t hate me for loving this time of year.
When the dust settles from the holidays, I cough and brush myself off and look around. I see the rubble of my life all around me; some of it worn, some of it broken, some of it still in the box. January is when I move slowly through the debris and decide what stays and what goes. I look at my body from head to toe and gauge what’s different and what’s still working like before, what it needs and where it should go. My loved ones have been tended to and cared for and shown affection in big and small ways throughout the last few months; January is for me.
When it comes to food in January, I’m looking for two things in a recipe – I want warmth (since Nicole and I live in Chicago and Maine, respectively, and are currently experiencing a brutally cold winter) and I want new. Warmth means spices and heat and kick, maybe a splash of cream for weight, a headiness in the aroma, depth, roundness of flavor. Warmth is comfort and protection. New means a technique or ingredient or combination of flavors I’ve never tried before.
“New” is important. In January, “new” feels like I’m stepping forward somehow. New shakes the dust loose.
This recipe from Bon Appetit drew me in because it offered both warmth and newness in the form of harissa. Harissa is a hot chili paste from North Africa and consists of red roasted peppers, serrano, maybe garlic, coriander, caraway and chili powder. There are many varieties and the original recipe from BA notes that the spiciness varies by jars so taste it before adding the amount you desire to the dish.
I loved this dish. I did what I usually do and fixed up the whole recipe on a Sunday and then stashed it away and doled it out, a bit at a time throughout the week. Each night, I’d let some water simmer in a small saucepan, add a chicken thigh and some chickpeas and that lusciously thick sauce and let the water do its magic. The sauce here is so flavorful that you’ll worry over the possibility that you won’t have enough of it to last the week but you will. A bit of water will shake the flavors loose and it’ll be just as good the last night as it was the first.
And let me just add one more note, if I may, especially if you’re one of those people who finds this month a drudgery of juice cleanses and salads and egg-white only omelettes and the gym and gray skies and dirty snow. You’re going to look at this recipe and wonder if you should use boneless, skinless chicken breasts instead; don’t do it. I know where you’re coming from, I do – I spent the first fifteen years of my adult life on a never-ending diet so I know that’s the negotiation you’re making right now. Chicken thighs taste better so eat them instead. Eat less of them, sure, but eat them nonetheless. You’ll savor them all the more, I promise. You might even find you savor this month more too.
Pan-Roasted Chicken with Harissa Chickpeas
Serves four; from Bon Appétit
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 8 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (about 3 lb.)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 15-oz. cans chickpeas, rinsed
- ¼ cup harissa paste
- ½ cup low-sodium chicken broth
- ¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- Lemon wedges, for serving
- Preheat oven to 425°. Heat oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Working in 2 batches, cook until browned, about 5 minutes per side; transfer to a plate.
- Pour off all but 1 Tbsp. drippings from pan. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring often, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, until beginning to darken, about 1 minute. Add chickpeas, harissa, and broth; bring to a simmer.
- Nestle chicken, skin side up, in chickpeas; transfer skillet to oven. Roast until chicken is cooked through, 20–25 minutes. Top with parsley and serve with lemon wedges for squeezing over.
Photos taken by Nicole, post written by Judi.
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