A Wickedly Tasty Paste

I really do wish that paste was not the word to use for this. Paste just isn’t an attractive word, and it really does not do justice to the complex wonder of an elixir it is. But alas, it is a paste. That’s what it is, even though it is not nearly romantic enough for its usage. Paste may not be very alluring, but this chicken is.

Chiles, coriander, cumin, caraway, garlic and pepper are ground together in a mortar and pestle into an aromatic earthy powder, transformed into a paste by way of a splash of olive oil. They mingle together as friends that don’t often spend time together in my kitchen, but I do believe I will be rectifying that. It’s such an interesting pleasant combination of flavors. Although paste is not an overly attractive word to use, it is the vehicle that transports all of that flavor to the chicken best.

We did these chicken thighs in the oven, but I am yearning to get the barbecue put together so we can try them out on the grill.

Chicken Thighs with North African Spice Paste

(recipe adapted from Gourmet magazine)

2 – 2 inch long dried red chiles

1 Tbsp dried hot pepper flakes

1 Tbsp ground coriander seeds

½ Tbsp ground cumin

½ Tbsp caraway

1 Tbsp garlic powder

1 Tbsp black peppercorns

2 tsp kosher salt

5 Tbsp olive oil

6 chicken thighs, bone in and skin on

  • Brown the chicken thighs on both sides in a screaming hot pan to render some fat and crisp the skin.
  • Use your mortar and pestle to grind the spices finely. This works best if you work in small batches. A coffee grinder makes quick work of this process as well.
  • Add the olive oil to the spice mixture to create a paste.
  • Rub over all sides of the browned chicken.
  • Place the chicken in an oven safe roasting dish and pop it into a 350 oven. Roast until the chicken is cooked through and the juices run clear (~1 ¼ hours).
  • Serve immediately after taking it out of the oven.

For those who may not be so receptive to the spicy edge of the intense North African flavors in the spice paste, this dish pairs really well with a cooling and ameliorating tzadsiki sauce. Lucky, it’s a pretty easy to whip up while the chicken is baking.

Mister, who is not always the biggest fan of spicy food, enjoyed the seasoning because the spice was very present but not incendiary. He especially enjoyed the tzadsiki sauce and remaining spice paste that got left in the pan atop his potatoes.

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