What struck me about this recipe from the start was the method: you don't have to brown the chicken first to render the fat and crisp up the skin — everything just gets added to the pot and baked uncovered for 40 minutes. The method yields beautifully brown skin, juicy meat, and cooked rice.
I did make the recipe somewhat more fussy: the original recipe truly calls for throwing everything in the pot, sticking it in the oven, and baking it. I didn't love the taste of the raw onion, so I added one more step, which is to sauté the onions for 5 minutes, then add the remaining ingredients one after the other.
I prefer toasting whole cumin seeds then grinding them in my mortar and pestle. Do this if you prefer as well. I also don't love ground ginger, so I used a teaspoon of coriander seeds (not similar, but works here), which I also toasted and ground.
Harissa is spicy prepared Moroccan sauce/paste. It varies in heat level, so you may have to adjust to taste. I found the 1.5 tablespoons called for in the original recipe not spicy enough for me; 4 tablespoons is quite spicy, however.
Original recipe calls for 12 dates. I prefer fewer, but use as many as you wish.
The original recipe also calls for 2.5 cups of water. I found the rice to be too soft with this amount of water. I tried with 2 cups and also found that to be too soft. So I then went down to 1 1/3 cups. This yields a mix of soft and crisp rice, which I love.
Brown rice: several commenters tried unsuccessfully to use brown rice. It's possible that a larger amount of water could help the brown rice cook properly, but I've never tried, so I can't say for sure. I would look to the package instructions for guidance re water and time. —Alexandra Stafford
ground cumin or whole cumin seeds (see notes above)
ground ginger (optional, see notes above)
basmati rice, rinsed until water runs clear, do not use brown rice, see notes above
6 to 12
medjool dates, diced (see notes above)
(or more) chopped pistachios (I use roasted unsalted)
In This Recipe
Preheat the oven to 400ºF. In a large skillet over high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil until it shimmers. Add the onions and reduce the heat to medium. Add a pinch of salt, and sauté until the onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the chicken in a large bowl. Season all over with salt and pepper. Pour in the remaining tablespoon of oil and 1 to 2 tablespoons of harissa, depending on your heat tolerance. Toss to coat.
Add the garlic to the onions, and cook for another minute more. Add the spices and 1 to 2 tablespoons of the harissa (depending again on your heat tolerance). Stir to coat the onions in the seasonings. Add the rice and stir for another minute or until each grain is glistening. Add the dates and zest the orange right into the pan. Halve the orange and squeeze the juice right into the pan. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt to the pan. Stir to combine. Nestle the chicken over the top of the rice. Pour 1 and 1/3 cups water (see notes above re water) all around. Nestle in the bay leaf.
Transfer pan to the oven (uncovered) and cook for 40 minutes. Remove pan from oven. Scatter pistachios over top. Serve immediately.