Friday, May 20, 2011

Get out your Maracas—we’re “going” to Morocco (Moroccan Inspired Baked Chicken)

Wait…what do you mean Maracas are from Latin America?  Oh well…moving on. 

Warning...this post contains graphic photos of raw chicken...

This is a habitual protein dish served in our house, meaning that it is served at least once a month at our dinner table. The spice recipe hangs out on my iPhone & is always at my fingertips.  I came up with this particular blend a couple years ago when trying to find a “perfect for our tastes” ratio…and I’m sure you can probably find 100 more recipes similar to it online.  As a warning, this chicken will be a beautiful color when finished, but the juices will be bright yellow due to the turmeric. If you have accident-prone children (or adults) in your household, you may want to restrict the enjoyment of this dish to a hard floor area instead of over stainable carpet. Also, if you are not a fan of a large amount of spice (not heat, but spices in general), you may want to make a half-batch of the spice blend.  The end result will be a juicy, savory, spicy baked chicken & the skin will have a slightly sticky quality from the spice blend.  Consider serving with Golden Herb Couscous & steamed vegetables.  Is this an authentic Moroccan recipe?--no.  Does this use some of the flavor profiles?--yes.  Hence, the “Moroccan Inspired”…

Moroccan Inspired Baked Chicken, Golden Herb Couscous,
and steamed Brussels sprouts.  
For this week’s preparation of this dish, I used halal chicken leg quarters from our local (and awesome) international grocery, Saraga (this cook LOVES Saraga & misses living 2 miles from it).  We have heard people raving over the past few weeks that the halal chicken & beef from there “just tastes better” & we had to investigate for ourselves.  The last time I talked to a butcher there (almost 2 years ago) he stated that most of their meat came from local sources, so kudos to the Saraga Halal meat counter!   (Whether this is still true or not…no clue.)   

Moroccan Inspired Baked Chicken (An original “I experimented in my spice cabinet” recipe)
Serves 4-8, Prep time- approximately 1 hour, depending on oven temperature & amount of meat
Ingredient Lineup

  • 4-8 pieces of cut-up, bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces*
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 t olive oil + additional as needed
  • 2 t ground cumin
  • 2 t ground paprika**
  • 2 t ground turmeric
  • ¾ t garlic powder
  • ¼ t cayenne***
  • 1 t cinnamon****
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a large glass baking dish by rubbing the olive oil on the interior cooking surfaces of the dish.  Use more if needed.

2.  Remove chicken from packaging.  Rinse the chicken under cool tap water, drain thoroughly, & pat dry with paper towels.  Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt.  Use your fingers to gently separate the chicken skin from the meat (not 100% separating, you still want to leave it “tacked down” in places).  Try your best not to tear the skin (the end product is prettier…:-) ).  This allows the skin to become crispier when baking, instead of limp/soggy, yet won’t cause excess juice to leak out of the meat.  If you want it super crispy when baked (relative to standard baked chicken), raise up the skin & poke it with a fork in multiple spots, being careful NOT to stab the meat underneath.  Set the chicken aside and wash your hands & any infected kitchen surfaces thoroughly.
Loosen skin on chicken pieces
Carefully poke holes in skin with fork (optional)
3.  In a small bowl mix the cumin, paprika, turmeric, garlic, cayenne & cinnamon.  Liberally coat the chicken in the spice mixture.  My usual method is to put the chicken in a plastic bag, pour the spice blend around the chicken in the bag, seal it, shake & rub the chicken until it is all thoroughly coated in the spices.  If you do not plan on eating the skin, you can also slip some of the spices under the skin & rub them in to help infuse the meat with more flavor.
Colorful spice palette 
Mixed up spices

Spicy, homemade version of "shake & bake"
Spiced & ready to bake
4.    Place the chicken meaty-side-up (bony side down) in the baking dish.  Bake for 50-60 minutes until internal temperature of the chicken reaches around 165 degrees & the juices run clear.  30 minutes into cooking, check the chicken.  If it is swimming in a lot of fat/juices, consider removing the juice with a turkey baster & transferring it to a disposable container or the sink.  This will keep your chicken from boiling while baking. This can also be avoided by using a baking rack in the dish. 

Chicken after hanging out in the oven for 60 minutes
5.  When the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees, turn your oven onto a low broil.  Broil the chicken for 5-10 minutes until skin is crispier.

Post broiling.  I accidentally broiled slightly
longer than I normally would.  But the taste
was fine.  

6.  Remove chicken from oven.  Set sit for 5-10 minutes & serve. 

*We prefer dark meat for baking, & we used 3 chicken leg quarters this time around.  Frequently, I’ll buy chicken thighs when they are on sale & cook those. But depending on price/# it may be more economical to buy a whole roaster/fryer & hack it up yourself.
** I use 1 t ground smoked sweet paprika & 1 t ground smoked hot paprika.

***I sometimes bump this up to ½ t of cayenne.  We like spicy foods, so we buy a super-spicy version of cayenne from the international market…if you like spicy foods, but have a tamer cayenne, or cayenne that has been hanging out in your spice cabinet for a few years, you may want to consider bumping up to ½ t of cayenne too.

****As stated in an earlier post, for recipes like this I prefer China Tung Hing cinnamon, but you can use whatever you have in your spice cabinet.  In my opinion, this particular variety adds to, but does not overpower savory dishes.      

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