This is the part of spring where the weather gets a little schizophrenic. After a brief flirtation with almost-summer, we’re back to our regularly scheduled cool spring temperatures, complete with the occasional dive below 0C and some drizzly mornings.
Despite the odd warm day here and there, I’ve been finding myself craving one last fling with my usual cool-weather comfort food favourites. I want buttery-soft roasted potatoes, herb-rubbed pork roasts studded with garlic cloves, crispy-skinned roast chicken stuffed with whole lemons, and thick slices of rare roast beef crusted with mustard.
I’m sure I’m just subconsciously trying to get my fix of all things oven-roasted before summer rolls around, bringing with it the heat and humidity that makes it impossible to turn on the oven for any amount of time.
Out of all my recent adventures in roasting, this is my absolute favourite. It’s a ridiculously simple sort of dish, made by tumbling all of the ingredients together in one big roasting pan, shaking everything around to coat thoroughly with spices, and then throwing the lot into the oven to roast. Strictly a set-it-and-forget-it sort of affair.
While the preparation is straightforward, the flavour is anything but. The combination of smoked paprika and harissa turns ordinary meat and potatoes into something rather extraordinary, giving a pleasant tongue-tingling heat to the crispy golden-brown chicken skin and lending a bright, sunny Mediterranean flavour to the jumble of roasted vegetables punctuated by sour lemon and salty olives.
All that’s needed to turn this into a complete meal is a simple green salad, since everything else you need is in that one roasting pan.
And did I mention that chicken drumsticks and thighs bake up in far less time than a whole bird? I get my roast chicken fix in under an hour, which makes it perfect even on a busy weeknight.
Best of all, the only thing left to wash up at the end is the roasting pan. Perfect.
I used a store-bought harissa spice mix to make this recipe (President’s Choice Black Label brand, to be specific), but don’t panic if you can’t find it in your local supermarket – here’s a recipe for a homemade harissa paste you can use instead.
- 6 chicken leg quarters, cut into thighs and drumsticks
- 1 lb carrots, cut on the diagonal into 2" lengths
- 1 lb baby potatoes, cut in half
- 1 large red onion, cut into thin wedges
- ½ cup oil-cured black olives (pref pitted)
- 1 lemon, cut into thin slices
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp harissa spice blend
- Fresh thyme sprigs
- Preheat oven to 425F.
- In a large roasting pan, toss the carrots, potatoes, onion, olives, lemon slices and olive oil until vegetables are evenly coated. Spread out into an even layer, and sprinkle with some salt and pepper.
- Pat the chicken pieces dry. Season generously with salt and pepper, then dust on both sides with smoked paprika and harissa spice.
- Arrange the chicken on top of the vegetables, making sure the thighs are skin side up, and top off with a few sprigs of thyme (be as generous or as skimpy as you like, depending on how much you like thyme - it's really up to you)
- Roast in preheated oven for 50-55 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the potatoes are tender. Serve immediately.