Monday, December 3, 2012

Ras al Hanout Roasted Chicken Thighs with Warm Carrot Arugula Salad

300: Ras al Hanout Chicken

Oof, long recipe title. Tasty dinner, though. We had some chicken thighs that I got super lazy about Sunday night (that is, we got pizza during all the football and didn't eat anything later). So tonight I resorted to my recent favorite chicken cooking method: season, sear, roast. Usually I just season with salt and pepper, cook, and then build a quick sauce in the skillet when the chicken is done (deglaze with wine, add mustard and cream or creme fraiche, whisk).

There's nothing wrong with a mustard cream sauce, but tonight I knew I wanted something warmly spicy, and I turned to Ras al Hanout, a North African spice blend. Ingredients vary from blend to blend, and in fact Ras al Hanout is Arabic for "top of the shop" meaning the spice shop owner mixes it from the best things in the shop. Using the old reliable sniff test, I can tell you mine contains cinnamon, coriander and cumin, but probably a few other things too. I know my jar isn't very spicy so I added cayenne for kick, but if you blend your own you can make it as spicy or cinnamony as you like.

I found myself with rather a lot of carrots in the fridge, and I thought a warm salad with wilted arugula would be nice, and I just built it as I went. The onion from beneath the chicken brings the flavors from the skillet into the salad and ties the whole thing together.

Ras al Hanout Roasted Chicken Thighs with Warm Carrot Arugula Salad
serves 4, or two with leftovers

for the chicken:
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons ras al hanout
1/4 teaspoon cayenne or more to taste
hearty pinch of salt
1 small red onion, sliced (not too thinly)

for the salad:
2-3 pounds carrots or a mix of carrots and parsnips, peeled and cut into 2 inch lengths, then quartered or cut into six wedges if large
1 cup walnuts, toasted
8 ounces baby arugula
2 ounces feta cheese, diced or crumbled
1/2 a lime, juice only
salt and pepper
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400.

Mix together the olive oil, ras al hanout, salt and cayenne into a thin paste. Rub all over the chicken thighs until thoroughly coated and set aside (don't refrigerate) while you peel and cut the carrots.

Toss the carrots with a tablespoon or so of olive oil and a big pinch of salt and pepper, spread on a baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes. Toss to redistribute and see if they're done; they'll probably need another 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until almost smoking. Add the chicken (if there's a lot of excess spice paste, leave it in the bowl, but no need to wipe them off or anything), skin side down. It should sizzle aggressively. Cook for 5-8 minutes until it releases easily from the pan. Remove the chicken from the pan and add the onion, then put the chicken back in, skin side up now, more or less covering the onion. I actually just picked up each piece, tossed a quarter of the onion slices under it, and flipped the chicken piece. Put the skillet in the oven and roast until the chicken is cooked through, another 20 minutes or so. A meat thermometer inserted into the meaty part (but not touching the bone) should read 165 or more. Take the chicken out and remove it to a plate to let it rest for 5-10 minutes before eating.

If you've timed it right, the chicken and the carrots will be done around the same time. It's ok if they're not, though. If the carrots are done before the chicken you can always stick the carrots back in to warm up while the chicken rests. If the chicken is done first, no worries, it needs to rest.

Now we combine the tasty things! Put the arugula and walnuts in a bowl. Add the warm carrots and any carroty roasting liquid amassed on the baking sheet. Scoop the onions out of the chicken pan and add them to the salad, squeeze the lime over the whole thing. Toss to combine. If you need more dressing, scoop some of the liquid from the chicken roasting skillet into the salad. Add the feta and toss gently, and serve.

1 comment:

  1. That chicken sound great, but I think the salad sounds even better. (I may have been hitting the hearty winter stodge foods a little hard lately...) I would be all over roasted carrots with tangy bitter greens!