Moroccan Spiced Chicken and Redhead Kate

5-8-08_endless-simmerRewind one week. Hutchmoot 2010, there is much bustle and chatter in the sunshine-yellow kitchen…Saturday evening’s Moroccan Spiced Chicken, not to mention many other tasty foodly items, would not have come off in as timely or seamless a manner if not for one…(kindly insert lively drumroll)…Redhead Kate.

Our acquaintance began with a string of emails about baking ingredients and an offer of a suitcase full of sweet potatoes. “Good thing I’m traveling Southwest!” she said, since two pieces of luggage are allowed, bless that airline’s heart. I knew I liked this girl, a real thinker, expeditious. She works for her family’s sweet potato company in North Carolina and brought with her quite a large box of the beauties as well as a deep, wide knowledge of the product. She laughed as she watched the gems get run through the dishwasher before roasting. Nothing but the best, cleanest sweet potatoes for our guests.

So Kate showed up on Thursday evening, donned an adorable apron she brought along, and got right to work. (Oh, if anyone wanted brownie recipes, she’s the one to ask.) She baked while simultaneously helping Pete with registration matters and making merch lists and such. Truth be told, I’m not sure exactly what it is she was doing, but she did it well and without fuss.

Her genuine laugh, her easy manner in the kitchen, her calming tone when I was about to lose my cool while getting ready for service, they were all ways in which I was blessed to the bone by her presence last weekend. In preparation for Saturday morning’s breakfast, I was thrilled by her lovely arrangement of the meat and cheese plates (which I usually have a hard time delegating because I don’t think anyone will actually do it to my standards). Her lovely little landscape of gently curled slices of ham and her asymmetrical placement of cheese wedges pleased my discerning eye. What a God-send she was, in so many respects and in the most literal sense of that word. God sent her directly to my kitchen, armed with understanding, a cool head, humor, and love for the craft. She spoke my language, finished my sentences, read my mind. Miraculous, that.

Now, for the chicken. (No drumroll really necessary.) I’m going to share a slightly different way to do it, for one chicken, since I doubt very seriously that you’ll be making 40 of them.

Preheat oven to 425. Ready a roasting pan or oven-proof skillet large enough to cradle the dear chicken without crowding the pieces (we want crisped skin, not the steamed, slimy sort…gross.). Rinse thoroughly and pat dry (I mean really dry) one whole chicken, cut up.

In a large mixing bowl combine:

1/4 cup olive oil

the zest and juice of one lemon

3 cloves of fresh garlic, finely chopped

2 tsp. of fresh ginger, grated (a microplane or fine grater will do the trick)

2 tsp. each of chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, coriander, kosher salt

Add the chicken pieces to the heady, fragrant mix which now resides in your bowl. By the way, make sure you cut the breast pieces in half, crossways, since they’re always so gigantic…those poor chickens, having to heave those breasts around the barnyard/crate/what-have-you. Zhoosh them around in the paste mix, cover and let it loiter in the fridge for a few hours if you can, but if you can’t, it’ll still be mighty tasty.

If you have planned accordingly and therefore have had time to let it sit in the Frigidaire, you’ll now need about 30-45 more minutes to let the chicken hang out in its bowl on the counter. It needs to shake off the chill, relax a bit. Putting it straight in the oven would be kind of like how you feel when you walk out of your meat-lockerish, air-conditioned homes these days in Nashville into the searing, eyeball-melting heat. No one likes that feeling, not even a dead chicken. Be kind to your product.

Scrape off any larger chunks of garlic (since it quickly burns and turns bitter) and arrange the chicken pieces in the roasting pan, skin side up. Roast in the upper-half region of your oven for somewhere in the neighborhood of an hour. Meanwhile, your house will smell like very heaven, and it will be hard (I speak from experience) to resist opening the over door frequently to steal little bits of crispy skin. Deny this urge its power. The oven wants to maintain its level of heating excellence. The skin should be golden brown and sizzly when it comes out, and there should be some real gorgeous Chicken-y love swimming around down in the bottom of the roasting pan. Aw come on, who am I kidding? If you’re game enough to make this chicken, you are probably the sort of person who knows when a chicken is done. Let her rest for a bit after coming out of the oven, the juices need time to meander back to their rightful spots.

Et voila! You’re done, and so is the chicken. So now it’s time to eat…with your hands. No forks allowed. Let the spiced oil and juices run down your wrists and drip onto the other residents of your dinner plate, it makes for a much more sensually fulfilling affair. A little finger bowl on the table next to each place setting is nice for sticky fingers. Fill small reservoirs of your choosing with an inch of water, an ice cube and a sprig of fresh mint or sprinkling of fennel seeds. It’s the little extravagances, you know.

Here’s a similar version of this dish from my blog, for those of you who like to experiment.