We're usually taught NOT to pierce the chicken skin or flesh in order to retain the moistness of the bird, but forget those rules when using this method.
The knife slits allow the flavorful smear to penetrate deeply and this method also shortens the cooking time.
When I first read through this recipe I thought it might be too spicy hot for my taste, but the yogurt truly balances the heat.
Of course you can adjust the amount of harrissa or chili-garlic paste you use to decrease or intensify the heat that you prefer.
To my palate sometimes cumin and fresh mint can overpower a recipe, but I was pleasantly surprised with the proportions in this recipe and wouldn't change a thing. The flavors mellow out when baked.
I don't think you'll find this too spicy, and if you like more heat, by all means you can increase the amount of chili/harissa in the yogurt mix.
Do offer the fresh lemon alongside as it adds a very pleasant counterbalance.
Chili-Garlic & Yogurt Baked Chicken
Slashed Chicken with Spicy Yogurt Smear
About 4 servings
2 to 3 pounds chicken piece (with skin and bones) ~I used thighs
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup Greek-style (thick) plain yogurt [unflavored]
1 Tablespoon Chinese Garlic-Chili Paste, or Harissa
1/3 cup fresh, shredded mint*
2 teaspoons ground cumin
kosher (or coarse sea salt) and coarsely ground freshly cracked black pepper
(Note: I increased the amount of "smear" ingredients just slightly by eye-balling the amounts, as it seemed a little stingy to me.)
* I reduced the amount of mint by just a bit, (early frosts). But don't omit-- it's a crucial part of the flavor components of this recipe. If you don't grow it, maybe your neighbor does?! :) Mint growers are usually overjoyed to share the abundance!
Preheat oven to 400 degrees (F)
Place a baking rack in a shallow baking pan
With a sharp knife slash (make deep slits) over all of the chicken pieces on both sides.
In a medium size bowl, blend yogurt, cornstarch, garlic-chili sauce (or harissa), mint, cumin, salt and pepper.
Smear the mixture on both sides of the chicken pieces and place on the rack in the pan.
Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 35 minutes or so, until a deep golden browned and cooked though.
For dinner I served it with couscous (prepared with chicken broth), and lightly steamed fresh broccoli and red bell pepper slivers.
If you cannot find harissa in your market, a chili paste similar to this one shown above is a fine substitute.
This is so flavorful you can serve it either warm or cold.
I'm thinking this would make wonderful picnic fare.
Recipe adapted from Donna Hay.