Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Roasted Harrisa Chicken

Last year, Napa debuted its Oxbow Market. This wonderful place reminds me very much of Chelsea Market in NYC but with an extensive wine bar instead of the Food Network studio. It has a charcuterie spot (Fatted Calf), a cheesemonger (Oxbow Cheese Merchant), a seafood outpost (Kanaola) and much more. Oxbow is located just next to Copia which was Robert and Margaret Mondavi's philanthropic pet project that created a center where food, wine and the arts are all celebrated. All this greatness aside, the place that really caught my attention and the rest of the cash in my wallet was a gorgeous spice stand by the name of Whole Spice. The best part about Whole Spice was Shuli Madone, its passionate owner. Originally from Israel, Shuli brought his family tradition to the states and let me tell you that this guy knows his stuff.

I've found that when you approach an exciting market filled with specialty stores that it is best to leave it to the pros. Ask them what they like. What they suggest. And why. To own a store like this or to even work in one requires passion. These people are often great cooks. They love to share their recipes and will talk for hours if you let them. Sometimes, these folks are better than any cooking show or cookbook you can get your hands on. I love that.

Shuli was no exception. He insisted that I take some free Herbs de Provence Sea Salt to test against my own since I told him 'I already have that'. I can tell you for a fact that his is much better. I also made it home with a Zhug Dipping Sauce that is a spice mix that I will add some olive oil to and serve with a baguette for snack-time around the house. A teaspoon will do just fine with a 1/4 cup of olive oil. It's spicy but Drew and I love our spice. However, his go-to, the one I HAD to get, was his Harrisa Spice Mix.

Harrisa is a hot blend that can accompany a variety of foods and adds an unmistakable Middle Eastern flavor. It's very common in North African cuisine and can be used in couscous, soups, salads, veggies and kabobs. But I'll use this mostly in my marinades for lamb, beef or chicken just as he suggested as well. The ingredients include chili California, chili New Mexico, coriander, garlic, cumin, cayenne and citric acid. Oh yeah, it can be made into a paste by smashing up some garlic and adding a dash of olive oil in a mortar and pestle.

Before I packed up my spices to move on to the wine bar, Shuli gave me this wonderful recipe for my Harrisa Spice Blend:

Roasted Harrisa Chicken
2 lbs chicken leg quarters
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
3 tablespoons Harrisa
5 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

In a small bowl or mortar and pestle crush garlic and add Harrisa and olive oil. Mix it into a paste. Season chicken with S&P on both sides. Generously rub chicken with paste until covered.

Heat oven to 400 degrees and roast in pan for an hour. Serve immediately.

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