Let me start by disclosing something. As soon as I saw the title of this book, and subtitle – Dinner: Changing the Game By Melissa Clark, I knew it was going to be a great book. With a title like that, how could it not be? It’s eclectic, exciting, fresh, do-able, and most important, it answers the question: What am I going to make for dinner?
The book gets right to the point, and the diversity of recipes includes everything from a Chinese-inspired Spicy Stir-fried Cumin Lamb and Duck Breasts with Plums and Garam Masala, to Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese and Seitan Enchiladas, so everyone will feel welcome around Melissa’s dinner table. And yours, too.
I’d bookmarked a number of the recipes in this book, wondering which to do first. Because, like you, I often wonder “What the heck am I going to make for dinner?”
Usually, it’s 4 pm and with the kids on their way home (okay, here it’s just Romain…) I find myself sometimes scrambling for what to make. There is the usual (and easy) poulet rôti that I can grab at the local butcher, which is my fall-back plan, but since I go to the market as much as possible, I put the ingredients for the Harissa Chicken on my shopping list; chicken thighs, potatoes, leeks, and fresh herbs, and off I went.
I love the idea of a one sheet pan dinner, so there’s less clean up. The idea of roasted chicken and potatoes, bathed in harissa, then topped with mildly exotic yogurt sauce and lots of vibrant fresh herbs, also appeals.
This recipe uses chicken thighs and while I know some of your prefer chicken breasts, those would work as well, although you’d need to dial down the baking time because they cook faster. I’d also cut them in half, crosswise, so more of the marinade gets into the meat. I used to eat more chicken breasts than I do now, but have mostly gone to the dark side, where things are a little more delicious.
I was, however, a little concerned that the recipe called for two tablespoons of harissa. Harissa is a fiery-hot North African hot sauce, that enlivens everything that it touches. A dab is sometimes added to couscous (if it’s not offered at the table, I ask for it), and it’s quite piquante.
In this chicken dish, the long cooking mellows it just enough, giving the chicken more of a “glow,” rather than an overly spicy burn. In contrast, there’s an easy, refreshing yogurt sauce that’s dappled over, and around, the top. The original recipe said to strew “soft” herbs over everything, which gives you license to adjust the dish to your taste. Romain recently discovered aneth (dill), something you can buy at the markets in Paris, but is usually destined for salmon dishes; I’ve not seen it served on anything else.
Dill definitely deserves more use here, and everywhere. Next time you make chicken soup, add a handful of chopped fresh dill. It’s wonderful. I’m no expert on North African food, so not sure it’s part of their culinary grab bag, but I’m making it more and more a part of mine. (It’s also great on this Cucumber Feta Salad.)
This dish really did “change my game,” as Melissa promised. It’s going into regular rotation at my house. Bonus points for being able to make the whole dinner on a single baking sheet. Hooray for that, too.
This recipe makes three servings, so you’ll have to fight who gets the leftover for lunch the next day.
FYI: I won.