This harissa roast chicken is a richly, deeply flavored dinner. Chicken is coated with a spice mix, sauteed, then slathered with harissa, cilantro pesto, lemon, garlic, and chiles before being baked to perfection atop potatoes.
We figured out how to make roast chicken and potatoes a little less ordinary. Actually, a lot less ordinary. Simply slather some chicken with a herby, tangy, spicy harissa sauce and roast it atop potatoes until the chicken skin is crisp and the underlying potatoes perfectly cooked. We may never go back to plain old roast chicken. (Actually, that’s not quite true. We love a good roast hen.)–Angie Zoobkoff
How to Make Your Own Tanoreen Spice
We love the exotic flavor that Tanoreen Spice adds to this chicken. Although chances are you may not have a batch on hand. Luckily, you can easily toss it together using common pantry spices. Simply combine 1 tablespoon ground allspice, 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper, and 1 tablespoon ground ginger.
Harissa Roast Chicken
For the cilantro-basil pesto
- 1 cup packed chopped fresh basil
- 1 cup packed chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 3/4 cup raw slivered almonds
- 1/2 cup olive oil or as needed
For the harissa roast chicken
- Two (2 1/2-to 3-pound) chickens halved or quartered
- 2 tablespoons Tanoreen spice mix (See note above)
- 1/2 cup mild olive or vegetable oil
- 8 medium (2 lbs) waxy potatoes such as red potatoes, sliced into 1/2-inch (12-mm) thick rounds
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1 cup store-bought or homemade harissa
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 cup chopped shallots from 4 to 5 shallots
- 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
- 2 poblano chiles finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons crushed dried Persian limes (optional)
- 1/4 cup cilantro-basil pesto or 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil and 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 cups storebought or homemade chicken broth or water
- Sea salt
Make the cilantro-basil pesto
- Combine all the ingredients except the oil in a blender or food processor and pulse until the garlic and almonds are completely broken down.
- With the blender or food processor running, slowly add the oil in a steady stream through the hole in the lid until you have a smooth, perfectly blended sauce that’s thick but not pasty. If it’s too thick, add a little more oil. The sauce will keep, in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for up to 2 weeks (or indefinitely in the freezer).
Make the harissa roast chicken
- Preheat the oven to 450°F (232°C).
- In a large baking dish or roasting pan, toss the potatoes with 1/2 cup olive oil. Roast until just golden, about 25 minutes.
- While the potatoes are roasting, place the chicken in a large bowl. Rub 1 tablespoon of the Tanoreen spices evenly over the chicken pieces, pressing gently so they adhere.
- In a large, deep skillet set over medium-high heat, warm the olive or vegetable oil. Working in batches if necessary, sear the chicken pieces, turning once, until golden, 4 to 7 minutes per side.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup oil, the harissa, lemon juice, shallots, garlic, chiles, crushed dried limes, if using, the remaining 1 tablespoon Tanoreen Spices, and the pesto or chopped herbs.
- Remove the potatoes from the oven and place the seared chicken in a single layer on top of the potatoes. Brush the harissa mixture evenly over the chicken. Return the dish or pan to the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 350˚F (175°C).
- Pour the chicken broth into the 4 corners of the baking dish, being careful not to let it splash on top of the chicken. Season everything with salt. Cover the dish with aluminum foil, return to the oven, and roast until the juices run clear when a knife is inserted between the leg and breast or a meat thermometer registers 165°F (75°C), about 75 minutes. Remove the foil and roast for 5 minutes more, or until golden and crisp, being careful not to let the hot pepper paste burn.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This harissa roast chicken takes some patience and has multiple steps and is worth ALL the effort. It’s full of spicy goodness (delivers the promised kick) and more than skin deep (although the skin is certainly the best part).
The marinade is thick and a beautiful reddish color studded with the poblano pieces—the recipe makes plenty so if you set some aside before start brushing the chicken, you can get more mileage out of it.
The potatoes come out perfectly tender but not overcooked and the juice that collects in the sheet pan is a nice bonus.
DO take the time to make the full pesto recipe—it is delicious on its own. I actually used the leftover for subsequent meals, tossing it with some ravioli. So if you think of the 3 hours of investment as producing 2 meals with leftovers, it’s worth it. I’m familiar with Persian lime because I eat a fair amount of Persian food and have a market nearby that sells it. This is a nice distinct tangy flavor, so if you can get it, it does add to flavor profile.
I did think the amount of oil called for in coating the potatoes was a bit excessive—would cut back on this. I also found the pesto needed some extra lemon juice in order to blend.
So many spices! The first bite is overwhelming in depth of flavors, but the more you eat the more you want to eat. There is a lot of cooking time but it’s well worth it. The potatoes are really yummy as well. I will add more the next time I make this.
My harissa mixture had a much darker color on the chicken and the mixture in the photo looks quite uniform as a paste. My mixture was thicker, with bits of poblano, garlic, and herbs. It might be a prettier presentation to put the harissa mixture in a food processor for a more uniform paste, but I don’t mind my dinner looking a bit rustic.
I made my own Tanoreen spice mix. I would definitely use the spice rub on other meats and vegetables. I used store-bought harissa and I didn’t make the pesto. I instead opted for the basil and cilantro mixture.
I would maybe serve this with a yogurt sauce, as some guests found it too spicy.
Harissa. The name itself hints at exotic spice and I hesitated to make this for my boys and their “new to spicy” palates. I’m glad I took the leap. Both of my boys ranked this harissa roast chicken an 8 or 9 out of 10 and loved the tender and flavor-filled chicken.
If you’re cooking for a family and short on time, I recommend taking the following shortcuts (#timesavers):
1. Instead of purchasing 2 whole chickens and having the mess of disassembling, I opted to purchase the weight equivalent of bone-in wings, drumsticks, and breasts. My bone-in chicken breasts were huge and required a bit more cook time.
2. Although making my own harissa would have been amazing, I found a great substitute at Whole Foods. I used Saffron Road Harissa Simmer Sauce, and because it was more sauce than paste it may have tempered the spicy, which worked out great for my family (i.e., no mouths on fire)
3. To save time, I did not make the pesto and opted to use the fresh cilantro and basil from my vegetable deck garden.
I served the chicken with couscous, a favorite of my boys, and a simple green salad with zucchini and tzatziki sauce. A lovely outdoor summer feast.
Originally published September 09, 2018