The term harissa originally comes from the Arabic verb "harassa" which literally means "to pound" or "to crush" and was initially used to describe a porridge of pounded wheat, butter, meat, and certain spices that dates back to the 7th century.
We take a shortcut and blend a harissa spice blend with garlic and olive oil. It provides the same fruity, smoky flavor that pairs well with briny green olives in this simple chicken dish. We used a whole, cut up chicken, but the same approach works with pieces like thighs. The chicken gets rubbed with the harissa, then slowly cooked on the stovetop in a tomato sauce flavored with cilantro and olives.
From the kitchen
Braising Pan with Lid
Make the harissa first by combining 3 cloves of finely chopped garlic with 1.8oz harissa spice blend, the salt, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Rub this over the chicken.
Drizzle the olive oil into the pan and cover with the onions. Layer the tomatoes on top, then add the chicken pieces. Scatter 3 chopped garlic cloves and olives over the chicken, and top with the cilantro.
Add a cup of water, bring to a boil, cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 90 minutes until the chicken is about to fall off the bones. Serve with rice, mashed potatoes, or bread to soak up the sauce.