Harissa is a delicious North African chili paste with origins in Tunisia but naturally, I have adapted this dish to suit the discerning Indian palate. Traditionally, this chili paste is hot & I mean – fiery hot so feel free to add more or less chilies as desired to suit your preference level. I have also added a roasted red bell pepper as well to my version for an underlying sweetness but if you wish, you can omit that as well.
Now personally, I like to roast my own red pepper for this recipe, the roasting intensifies and concentrates their flavor. It’s easy enough to do with a gas stove, oven or outdoor bbq grill. But if you can find ready to use jarred or bottled roasted red peppers, they’re perfectly fine to use and a huge time saver.
The uses for this tasty condiment are numerous – use it as a dip for veggies/pita chips or as a spread on burgers/sandwiches/wraps or as a sauce for grilled meats & kebabs. I have decided to make my Spicy Harissa Chicken Wings – just perfect for entertaining!
HARISSA (“Indianized” Red Chili Paste)
12-15 dried red chilies, to taste (soaked in a little warm water for 30 minutes to soften)
1 medium roasted red pepper (peeled, de-seeded & roughly chopped)
4-5 large garlic cloves
½” piece of ginger
small handful of cilantro leaves (you can use the tender stems also)
½ tsp ground coriander powder
½ tsp ground cumin powder
salt & pepper, to taste
¼ cup olive oil
Drain the dried red chilies but reserve the soaking liquid. Then using a blender or food processor, add all of the ingredients and blend into a smooth thick paste. I usually add a little of the soaking liquid to help the blending process. Any extra soaking liquid could always be added to a dal, curry or vegetable recipe.
Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week, you can also freeze the harissa if needed.
SPICY HARISSA CHICKEN WINGS
4 lbs of skinless chicken wings (about 20-25 pieces), wing tips removed
lemon wedges for garnish
For the marinade:
2 cups plain thick yogurt
3-4 tbsp harissa paste, to taste
juice of ½ lemon
salt & pepper, to taste
Whisk together the marinade ingredients until smooth and add the chicken wings. Mix well to coat the chicken wings evenly, a plastic zip bag works well (and no messy clean up) and refrigerate. I highly recommend marinating the chicken overnight, the longer the better. I have marinated my chicken wings for up to 2 days and it is crazy delicious! But if time is an issue, than at least 5-6 hours of marinating will work in a pinch.
Remove the chicken wings and remove any excess marinade before cooking, discard the marinade. This recipe works best on a grill but can also be done in the oven. If you are grilling the chicken on a grill or barbeque, grill on medium high until fully cooked. The chicken should be browned on the outside but deliciously tender on the inside.
If you are using an oven, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. On a foil lined baking sheet (sprayed lightly with cooking spray), place your chicken wings in a single even layer and drizzle very lightly with oil. Bake for 10-12 minutes, turn the wings over and cook for another 10 minutes. Check to make sure the chicken is fully cooked through; it should be evenly browned on the outside but juicy and tender on the inside. Squeeze fresh lemon juice on top and garnish with extra lemon wedges. This can be served with a cool and refreshing yogurt dip (yogurt with either finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves or finely chopped fresh mint leaves).
For a subtle sweet taste, make a glaze by heating a cup of orange juice (or try mango or peach juice). Reduce the orange juice by half and then add just a tbsp or so of your favorite honey, whisk together until well combined. Let cool slightly and then baste the chicken wings in the last 5 minutes of cooking. If you have any extra glaze, just pour it over the top of the wings when they come off the grill (or out of the oven).