Early this summer I discovered harissa at our local Brooklyn Whole Foods, and this spice blend has really changed up our “easy and quick” meat game. Harissa — at least the Whole Foods blend — is made up of paprika, caraway, chili pepper, cayenne pepper, coriander, cumin, garlic, peppermint and sea salt. It’s a little spicy, and packs a lot of flavor. You can mix the powder with water or olive oil to make a paste, or simply use it as a dry rub. I started using the rub when I wanted to change up the simple roast chicken or a steak, and have used it when roasting cauliflower as well. When we went on our dive vacation in Bonaire recently and I knew we would be cooking either beef or chicken everyday due to island grocery limitations, I brought harissa with us. It was a life saver from the monotony of eating the same thing day after day, literally spicing up our meals in a different way. The only thing to watch out for when using harissa is that it will burn — so for instance with whole chicken I make sure the bird is covered until the meat is cooked and is ready to be exposed to crisp up the skin, or with steak I like to put it only on one side, the side that will be seared/cooked second. The rub will also be great on ribs. Harissa is a great spice blend that packs a lot of flavor and aroma — if you see it at your grocery store, it is definitely worth trying and experimenting with it!
We love Dutch oven/big pot dinners, especially in the winter when we crave a warm and hearty meal. Dutch oven/big pot dinners are also great for us because they make many meals at one go — and when your husband requires a lot of food all the time, as mine does, the abundance provided by a Dutch oven/big pot meal is a big relief. I recently came across a lovely recipe on the Bon Appetit website called Indian-spiced Chicken with Tomato and Cream. It’s described like a stew with curry-like spices, and it looked quite simple, so I decided to give it a try last weekend. I tweaked the recipe a bit — I used butternut squash instead of potatoes, chicken thighs instead of whole legs, goats milk yogurt instead of cream, added slightly more cayenne pepper, and garnished the curry with cilantro instead of mint (because I couldn’t find mint at the supermarket). The original recipe also instructed the ginger and garlic be grated, but I was too lazy and just minced them finely (which works just fine, because they will cook down anyway). The resulting stew/curry was FANTASTIC!!! It is the first curry I have made from scratch (i.e. not using a ready-made paste), I was so impressed with myself! If you are craving a good Dutch oven/big pot meal, or a simple curry, this is a great recipe. I will definitely make it again. The layers of flavors from the spices are wonderful, perfect for a cold winter night. Next time, I may use coconut milk instead of goats milk yogurt… but I think my tweaking worked out very nicely. The sweetness of the butternut squash complemented the spiciness very well; we also loved that the squash is lighter than potatoes. The cilantro was great, too, although mint would have been interesting — maybe next time! All in all a great new recipe to add to the repertoire. It’s a slow-cooking kind of meal and takes a few hours to make, so it’s not ideal for a weekday dinner. But it’s definitely a great meal to make on a weekend, and it will feed you for a few days! Also, your house will smell amazing with all the spices involved.
Here is the recipe, adapted from the Bon Appetit version. I doubled up the amount of the original recipe because I wanted to make a big batch. If you are not as big a eater as my husband (few are), you may want to halve the recipe. Or, just make it as is and enjoy leftovers! The curry tastes even better the next day.