Have you cooked with harissa yet? It’s a North African and Middle Eastern staple that I’ve been curious about for a while now. The core ingredients are chile peppers, garlic, olive oil, and spices like cumin and coriander. Different regions have their own spin on harissa, but for the most part this garlicky, spicy paste will deliver consistent flavors. Since it packs quite a punch, I chose to braise chicken thighs with harissa and smooth coconut milk. The result? A new favorite.
If you’re new to braising, this recipe is a great introduction. I follow the traditional method, which looks a little something like this:
- In a dutch oven, sear seasoned meat in quality fat with a high smoking point
- Return meat to Dutch oven, add aromatics
- Add a modest amount of liquid — not making soup here!
- Cover, place in an oven that’s been preheated to a low temperature
- Cook undisturbed (this is the magic of braising right here)
- Remove from oven, remove the protein, and move forward with sauce preparation using the braising liquid.
- Shred or slice the protein, if desired, and top with the braising liquid from the pan to serve.
Once you get the hang of that, you’ll be a braising pro! You might even find it becomes a favorite way to prepare richly flavored bulk protein for meal prep each week too, since it’s fairly hands-free and turns even the toughest cuts into something juicy and delicious.
- 2½ to 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 2 to 3 tablespoons avocado oil (or melted lard)
- Juice of one lemon
- 2 tbsp harissa
- ½ cup coconut milk
- Preheat the oven to 325.
- Heat a dutch oven to medium high and add the avocado oil.
- Meanwhile, combine the dry ingredients to make a spice blend.
- Toss the chicken thighs in the spice blend.
- Working in batches, sear both sides of the chicken thighs until golden brown (but not cooked through).
- When all of the thighs have been seared, return all of the chicken to the Dutch oven.
- Combine the lemon juice, harissa and coconut milk in a small bowl first, then pour it over the thighs.
- Nestle the thighs evenly in the sauce.
- Cover the Dutch oven and place in the oven.
- Braise for 30 minutes.
- To serve, portion out the chicken thighs and use a whisk to emulsify the braising liquid before spooning over the chicken.
A few things help this recipe come together smoothly
This recipe is designed for harissa paste, such as the one I found at Trader Joe’s (which also happens to be available on Amazon Prime if you use that as much as I do!). Second, you gotta have a Dutch oven. This means a sturdy, oven-safe pot with secure fitting lid that can transfer from stove top to oven. I prefer the cast-iron styles, personally. They can range from about $50 to an upwards of $300 if you want to rock a Le Creuset. I look for thick cast iron with a quality ceramic enameling — and a lid that fits securely on the pot. Honestly, if you have those bases covered, might as well find one at a good price. Here’s an example of the range you will find:
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