One of the things I’ve been working on lately is building up a solid pantry. Apartment living doesn’t always lend itself to keeping a lot of ingredients on hand, but over the summer we moved into an apartment with more than 2 cabinets and a full-sized fridge, and I got to work.
Having a wide range of spices and condiments on hand makes it easy to elevate almost any meal. For example, a few pickled jalapeños can give a standard bowl of rice and beans a boost. Putting sriracha on scrambled eggs somehow makes it feel more like dinner. (Try it!)
For this dish, harissa does a lot of the heavy lifting. Harissa is a chili paste that originates in Tunisia, but is more often associated with Moroccan cuisine. It is made with dried and smoked chilis, as well as other flavors like garlic, cumin, and coriander. Think of it like a North African version of sriracha or a (super) spicy ketchup.
A few teaspoons of harissa turned this otherwise tame set of ingredients into a warm, flavorful stew that was perfect for a night in. Note: a little bit goes a long way! You can always add more if you’d like to dial up the heat.
I’m lucky enough to live within walking distance of a specialty foods store that carries all types of Middle Eastern, North African, and Mediterranean foods, so finding harissa was a snap. I’ve also seen it in grocery stores in the hot sauce aisle.
Like any other hot sauce, different brands of harissa will have different flavors and levels of heat. I opted for the variety that came in a tube and appeared to be imported from overseas. (Bonus: it was a fraction of the price of the other options!) The tube makes it easy to add to dishes without dirtying a spoon, and it doesn’t take up too much space in the refrigerator.
I served this stew with some flaky Morrocan M’Smen bread from Hot Bread Kitchen. This bread is what dreams are made of – aka layers of buttery goodness that are perfect for dipping. If you can’t find m’smen, substitute another flatbread or serve with couscous.
I used my Instant Pot for this stew, but it can easily be converted for the stovetop. Follow steps 1-5 in a large pot with a lid, then simmer until the chicken is shreddable and the flavors have melded.
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 2 cups chickpeas cooked (or one can, drained and rinsed)
- 2 red peppers seeded and diced
- 1 medium yellow onion diced
- 2 carrots diced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 cup chicken stock plus up to a half cup additional
- 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 2 tsp harissa paste (or more – depending on your preference)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh oregano finely chopped
- ¼ cup raisins or dried apricots
- 1 tsp ras al hanout
- In an Instant Pot or other electric pressure cooker, turn on the “Saute” function. When the Instant pot reads “hot” on the display, add the olive oil.
- Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper, then add them to the hot Instant Pot in a single layer, working in batches if needed. Sear the chicken thighs until browned on each side, then remove from the pot.
- Add the onion, carrot, red pepper, and garlic to the pot, adding more olive oil if the pot seems a little dry. Saute for 1-2 minutes, until slightly softened. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the harissa paste, stirring to coat. Saute for about 30 seconds.
- Add the chicken stock to the pot, and scrape up any browned bits. Add the chickpeas, stir to combine.
- Pour the crushed tomatoes over top of the chickpeas and vegetables. Place the seared chicken thighs on top of the tomatoes. Press the “Cancel/Keep Warm” button.
- Press the “Manual” or “Pressure Cook” button, and set the timer to 10 minutes. Put the lid on, and make sure the valve is set to “sealing”. When the timer is done, manually release the pressure.
- Use two forks to shred the chicken thighs. (I do this directly in the Instant Pot).
- If the stew seems too thin, press the “Saute” button and bring to a simmer until it reaches your desired thickness. Stir in the oregano and raisins. Add the ras al hanout to the stew, and more harissa if you’d like more spice.
- Serve immediately with flatbread or over couscous.