I am here to tell you that I have ignored all the hype about harissa the past few years. At first I was like, is this another must-have thing that everyone is going to jam down my throat until they actually do jam it down my throat? Like with kale. Everything was kale, kale, kale non-stop. Drove me nuts. Then I made kale chips and loved them. So here I am, with harissa, kinda doing the same thing. I do it with music too. Jagged Little Pill? Didn't listen to it until 10 years later - fell in love. So Harissa, my darling, I'm sorry I neglected you for so long. We were destined to find each other eventually, and we did. My harissa chicken thighs with yogurt is absolutely delicious and I hope you give it a try.
So Someone Gave You a Jar of Harissa: Now What?
This is how I happened to finally try harissa. I was visiting a chef friend of mine, and she was cleaning out her very overstocked kitchen. She had a small jar of harissa and I think I said I'd never tried that yet. She gave me the jar. Organic. Price tag was $14. In my mind I said, THIS is why I haven't tried harissa - this price is bulls**t. Then again she lives on Martha's Vineyard and things are expensive there. I held onto it for a while and only when nearing the expiration date (and not able to bear the thought of a $14 jar of organic harissa going to waste) did I set out to do something with it.
What is Harissa and Where Does it Come From?
The origin of harissa is North African according to Wikipedia. It's a smokey chili paste that ranges from mild to spicy. It typically contains dried red chilies, garlic, citrus of some kind, spices like cumin and coriander, and oil. The brand I used is Tunisian and harissa is the largest export of that country. There are many varieties to chose from at your local grocery store and I found that some are more pasty then others. Some are slightly more saucy. In terms of flavor, the main difference between other chili pastes - like Huy Fong's Sambal or Garlic Chili Paste - and harissa, is the smokey and slightly tangy flavor. It's distinct. You can use this for marinades, toppings, stir fry's - it will taste great on any protein in my opinion.
Harissa Chicken Thighs with Yogurt, Cilantro and Mint
If you are one of my regular readers, which of course you are, you know I prefer dark meat chicken. Love it. And I know some people get freaked out about chicken thighs and all that fat. So, if you're making this you should also check out my how to trim the fat from chicken thighs video if you have the time. This will allow you to eat chicken thighs feeling a lot less guilty.
Since harissa is peppery and smokey and can have varying levels of spice depending on the brand - yogurt will come in handy to balance out that spice. I found the brand I used had a milder kick to it and wasn't too spicy. It will be a good option for those who don't want their mouth on fire, and prefer a milder taste.
About the cilantro and mint. I realize there are a lot of cilantro haters out there and I don't really get it, but I deal with it. People think I'm a wacko because I don't like mayonnaise and I always stand my ground about it. I happen to LOVE cilantro and I really love cilantro and mint together. These two herbs, plus that amazing yogurt are the ingredients that make this meal next level.
Easy Steps To Making Harissa Chicken w/Yogurt
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