Rosy Harissa Chicken


Although we’re more accustomed to seeing them in vases than on our plates, roses are often used in Middle Eastern cooking, from fragrant rose water in desserts to dried rose petals in spice blends. When my favorite boutique spice house, New York Shuk, developed their Rosey Harissa Spice, a dry version of harissa flecked with rose petals, it inspired me to develop this chicken recipe. I immediately envisioned a beautifully roasted bird showered with a flurry of rose petals in dusty hues of garnet and fuschia; the recipe nearly wrote itself! And while you could use paprika (sweet, hot, or smoked) instead of the specialty harissa, you won’t have a good excuse to sprinkle your chicken with rose petals—which is more than half the fun.This chicken becomes tender and juicy after a bath in a kefir marinade redolent with harissa paste, lemon, and garlic. It’s easy to prepare the day before you want to make it—you just have to think ahead a little. When I’m having people over, or honestly, when I’m just working a little late on a weeknight, I like to have dinner half-done before I even turn on the oven.Since the heat level of harissa pastes can vary quite widely, it’s a good idea to taste as you go when adding the additional harissa to the pan sauce at the end. But I recommend going a little hotter than you think. The juicy but mild chicken is best when dipped in the spicy jus thickened and enriched by the softened lemon, shallot, and garlic that are cooked alongside the chicken. It adds up to a perfect balance of heat, brightness, and comforting, slow-cooked flavor.For a version using a whole chicken, see my new book, Open Kitchen. For either version, serve with crusty bread or with plenty of Israeli couscous to sop up all the delicious sauce.

Rosy Harissa Chicken Recipe
Photo: Greg DuPree
Active Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 55 mins


  • 3/4 cup kefir or plain whole-milk Greek yogurt

  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

  • 3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons harissa paste (such as New York Shuk), divided

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves plus 4 thyme sprigs, divided

  • 2 teaspoons grated garlic

  • 1 tablespoon black pepper, divided

  • 4 (10-ounce) chicken leg quarters

  • 2 large shallots, halved

  • 1 garlic head, halved crosswise

  • 1 small lemon, halved

  • 1/4 cup water

  • 1 tablespoon rose-harissa spice blend (such as New York Shuk) or paprika

  • 2 tablespoons dried edible rose petals or rose buds (optional)


  1. Whisk together kefir, lemon juice, 3 tablespoons harissa paste, 1 tablespoon salt, thyme leaves, grated garlic, and 2 teaspoons pepper. Place chicken quarters in a large ziplock plastic bag. Pour kefir mixture over chicken, and seal bag. Refrigerate at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours, turning bag occasionally.

  2. Preheat oven to 375°F with oven rack in upper third of oven. Let chicken stand at room temperature 30 minutes. Scatter shallots, garlic, and lemon halves, cut sides down, in a heavy-duty roasting pan or 13- x 9-inch baking dish. Add thyme sprigs. Remove chicken from marinade, allowing excess marinade to drip off. Discard marinade. Sprinkle chicken with remaining 1 teaspoon salt and remaining 1 teaspoon pepper; arrange chicken, skin sides up, in a single layer in roasting pan. Add 1/4 cup water to pan.

  3. Roast chicken in preheated oven until a meat thermometer inserted in thickest portion registers 140°F, 30 to 35 minutes. Turn broiler to high. Baste chicken with pan juices, and sprinkle chicken with rose-harissa spice blend. Broil, basting chicken with pan juices every 2 to 3 minutes, until thermometer registers 165°F, 8 to 10 minutes.

  4. Transfer chicken to a channeled cutting board; let rest 10 minutes. Meanwhile, squeeze 1 roasted lemon half and 6 roasted garlic cloves into pan juices; reserve remaining lemon half for serving and remaining garlic cloves for another use. Mash shallots and garlic with a fork. Pour pan juice mixture through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a bowl, pressing to extract liquid; discard solids. Whisk in remaining 2 teaspoons harissa paste. Pour accumulated juices from cutting board into harissa mixture in bowl, and stir. Pour pan juice mixture onto a serving platter, and top with chicken. If desired, crush rose petals over chicken. Serve immediately with reserved lemon half.

Make Ahead

Chicken can be marinated overnight or up to 24 hours ahead.

Suggested Pairing

Peppery, Rhône-style California red.

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