When I was a kid I had, for some unknown reason, a total love of all things Moroccan. Now, I’ve never been to Morocco (although I’d love to go some day), didn’t know anyone from Morocco, had absolutely no connection to the place whatsoever. But it intrigued me, and still does to this day.
So I love finding Moroccan recipes. I was particularly excited to see this one, while watching Tyler Florence’s show on Food Network. I love Tyler Florence. I really do. But I’ll wax poetic about that in another post later. Anyway, he was making Moroccan brick chicken with yogurt sauce and couscous and it looked, as all his food does, absolutely divine so I thought I would try it sometime.
Now, again, like I’ve always said, I really consider recipes more like guidelines than actual rules, so I didn’t make everything–I didn’t make the yogurt sauce and I made a grilled romaine salad instead of couscous, because I just wasn’t feeling it at the time. Besides, the chicken was the star here and the chicken was great.
The recipe for the chicken is below. Like I said, I made a few changes. Josh and I took the long, long drive to the nearest Whole Foods (just kidding, it’s a one and a half minute drive from our apartment; I love this town) and headed for the meat counter. We picked out a small, free range, organic whole chicken–about 3 pounds, more than enough for just the two of us–and had the butchers (Whole Foods, by the way, has excellent, extremely friendly butchers in our experience) remove the backbone. That took them two seconds. Later, at home, I removed the breastbone and ribs myself….that took me about 8 minutes. And a few mental swear words. But eventually I got them out. I made the rub as instructed and let the chicken marinate in the fridge. The rub was super easy and, as Josh and I had fortuitously just purchased our first spice grinder (really a coffee grinder, of course), we delighted in being able to grind fresh spices ourselves.
And really, fresh ground cinnamon and cumin have an entirely different effect on your senses than the store-bought already-ground stuff. They are much more fragrant, more potent-tasting and basically are super-delicious. Highly recommend.
After the suggested marinating period, I had Josh turn on the grill. Now, Tyler’s recipe is for brick chicken, to be cooked first on the stovetop pushed down by a tinfoil covered brick (because when he says “brick,” he means it), and then moved into the oven for finishing. I, however…didn’t want to do that. It’s summer and the weather is nice out and so therefore, if I can grill something, I will. So I grilled it. Started off on high heat, spread the chicken out over the grate and shut the lid for about 4 minutes, flipped the chicken and then shut the lid again, turning the heat way down. That flat, delicious looking little bird was ready in about 20 minutes.
It came out super moist, and very flavorful (Josh wasn’t a big fan of the cinnamon, not being a big fan of the spice in general, but I really enjoyed it). There was more than enough for dinner, and I shared the leftovers out with friends. I will say that the leftovers would also make fantastic sandwiches and delicious chicken salad.
Now I’ve made myself hungry.
Moroccan Brick Chicken
* 2 tablespoons cumin seed
* 2 tablespoons whole coriander
* 2 cinnamon sticks
* 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
* 1 teaspoon cayenne
* 1 teaspoon kosher salt
* 1/4 cup olive oil
* 1 lemon, juiced
* 1 whole free-range chicken (3 pounds), split (see directions below or have butcher split chicken for you)
Toast cumin, coriander and cinnamon in a medium saucepan over low heat until fragrant. In a clean spice grinder or coffee grinder, blend spices until fine. Add the toasted spices to a bowl with paprika and cayenne. Season with kosher salt. Stir in the olive oil and lemon juice.
Prepare chicken by splitting it down the back and removing the backbone, breast bone and rib cage. Lay the chicken out flat and rub the blended spices all over. Marinate for up to 4 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Heat a large cast iron skillet (or other heavy oven-proof pan) over medium-high heat. When hot, add a 2 count of extra-virgin olive oil and place the chicken skin side down in the pan. Cover it with a second cast iron pan (you could also use a more traditional foil-wrapped brick) immediately so the skin doesn’t have time to contract. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 10 to 15 minutes until chicken is golden brown and has a nice crust. Finish cooking in the oven for a further 20 to 25 minutes. Internal temperature between the leg and thigh should register 165 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, when cooked through.