One of our go-to meals to cook at home, both for taste and ease of preparation is simple roasted chicken. You really don’t need to do too much to a whole chicken besides add salt and pepper, roasted it in a hot oven. But sometimes I like to play around with ingredients and I am always drawn to the middle eastern spices I grew up with.
Here is a recipe that has become one of my fast favorites. The combination of spices are a play on traditional Harissa paste, without all of the heat of the chiles, and with a little extra garlic.
Harissa, if you are not familiar, is a crushed Red Chile paste originating from Tunisia. It’s a popular condiment in North African countries like Morocco, Libya and Algeria, each region having its slightly different version. This however is not a traditional harissa paste, which could overwhelm with all the chiles, but rather, hints of it. The caraway seeds are magical.
We Americans tend to think of caraway seeds as a European spice because they are typically found in rye bread and krauts. My mother used to put them in her dense Finnish rye bread.
But did you know that they are also widely used in middle eastern cooking? Another name for caraway is Syrian Cumin. There different kinds of caraway seeds including a black caraway. Middle Easterners refer to it as “the blessed seed” because of its healing properties. It is said that King Tutankhamen’s tomb contained black caraway oil, highly valued by ancient Egyptians.
Saffron Basmati Rice is a nice accompaniment, but by no means required. Instead, for an easy “one-pot” dinner, line the bottom of the skillet with vegetables (like carrots, fennel, onion, celery, potatoes, parsnips, turnips) that have been tossed with a little salt, pepper, and olive oil. Top with a few slices of lemon.
Place the rubbed chicken on top of the layer of vegetables before putting the whole thing in the oven. The juices and drippings of the chicken will season the vegetables really nicely. Or forgo the veggies and rice and serve with a big helping of salad.
- 4–6 lb one whole free-range/organic chicken
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 8 garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon toasted fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon toasted caraway seeds
- 1 teaspoon toasted cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 tsp cracked pepper
- 1 crumbled chile de arbol or 1 tablespoon Aleppo chili flakes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 cup onion, finely diced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tomato, diced
- Pinch saffron
- 1 cup basmati rice, well rinsed
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 lemon sliced
Lemony parsley yogurt Sauce:
- 1 1/2 T lemon juice lemon
- 1 cup plain greek style yogurt
- 1/2 cup Italian parsley
- 1/4 tsp salt
- cracked pepper to taste
- Pre-heat oven to 425 F
- Rinse and pat dry chicken (getting the skin really dry ensures that it will get crispy).
- In a dry skillet lightly toast the whole spices, over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, just until fragrant.
- Using a mortar and pestle ( or food processor) grind the garlic with the salt into a paste. Add the toasted spices, paprika, pepper, crumbled chile, and olive oil and mash into a paste. It doesn’t have to be perfectly smooth.
- Rub the pasted all over the chicken, getting in all the nooks and crannies and placing any extra inside the cavity of the bird. Tress, tying legs together and tucking the wings in.
- Place on a cast iron skillet or sheet pan, breast side up. Place in the oven for 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours depending on weight. It is done when the thigh is 170 F, or juices run clear.
- Let chicken rest 15 minutes before cutting into.
Note: All ovens are different. If using an electric oven, check chicken at 25 minutes. If the skin looks like it will over brown if kept at the same temp, turn the heat down a bit. It may take a little longer to roast longer, but this will keep the skin from getting too dark. In my oven at home, the 425F gas oven produces a perfectly browned chicken.
- In a medium pot, saute onion in olive oil, on medium heat until tender, about 6 minutes. Add the diced tomato and pinch saffron (crumbled with your fingers). Saute 2 minutes.
- Add well-rinsed rice. Saute 1 minute. Add chicken stock and salt. Top with lemon slices. Turn heat to high, cover and bring to a boil, and turn heat to the lowest setting and simmer until water is gone and rice is cooked about 15-20 minutes.
Lemon Parsley Sauce:
- Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until incorporated, but not too smooth.
Substitute veggies for a “one-pot” meal version. Chop veggies ( carrots, potatoes, parsnips, fennel, onion, celery…or whatever you like) into bigger bite-sized pieces and toss with salt pepper and olive oil. Line the bottom of a skillet or roasting pan with the vegetables and top with sliced lemon. Place the chicken directly on top. Roast.
- Calories: 596
Keywords: Whole roasted harissa chicken , whole roasted chicken