Weeknight paprika-cumin chicken evokes Moroccan grilling

Christopher Kimball Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street

In Morocco, djej mechoui simply means grilled chicken, but the flavor that emanates from it makes it clear it’s so much more.

Coated with smen, or fermented butter, the bird is liberally seasoned with a mixture of coriander, parsley, paprika, cayenne, and cumin before being cooked over hot coals. The sizzling blend of spices and smoke is intoxicating and inspired this recipe from our Tuesday Nights Mediterranean book, featuring friendly local weekday fare.

For our adaptation, we slice bone-in chicken thigh quarters deep to the bone, which speeds cooking and gives more surface area for seasoning. And roasting the chicken on a rack in a rimmed baking sheet rather than in a deeper skillet increases airflow around the meat to enhance the flavor that comes from the extra browning.

We’ll start off by making a simple spice and herb-infused butter with garlic, cumin, cayenne, and smoked paprika, a Spanish spice but imparting a rich color and flavor reminiscent of outdoor grilling. The butter is spread on the chicken, which is roasted in a hot oven.

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The cumin is best crushed lightly with a mortar and pestle, or you can grind it in a spice grinder. In any case, be careful not to grind them into a powder; They should retain some texture.

Don’t be afraid to cut through the skin and flesh when slicing the chicken. Be sure to cut to the bone so the spices can penetrate deep.

Moroccan inspired roasted spiced chicken

Beginning to end: 45 minutes

  • 5 tablespoons salted butter
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons cumin seeds, lightly crushed
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander plus whole leaves for serving
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus whole leaves, for serving
  • 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice plus lemon wedges for serving
  • 3 pounds bone-in and skin-on chicken quarters, patted dry

Preheat the oven to 450 F with a rack on the middle position. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a wire rack on top. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the garlic and cumin, then cook and toss the pan until the seeds sizzle, 60 to 90 seconds. Stir in the paprika, cayenne, and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Cook until spices are fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro, parsley, sugar, and lemon juice; put aside.

Using a sharp knife, make parallel cuts in each chicken thigh about 1 inch from the bone on either side of each leg. Salt all over, then brush both sides with about half of the butter mixture. Place the chicken, skin side up, on the prepared rack and broil for 10 minutes.

Brush the remaining butter mixture onto the top of the chicken. Continue frying until well browned and thickest part of thigh reaches 175 F, about another 15 minutes.

Place the chicken on a serving platter and let rest for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with coriander and parsley leaves, then serve with lemon wedges on the side.

For more recipes, see Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street at 177milkstreet.com/ap

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