Why I love it: The Moroccan ras el hanout–spiced chicken has a delicious and complex flavor that works perfectly with the charred bell pepper, the juicy pineapple and the spicy pico de gallo. The recipe is quick, easy and perfect for busy weeknights because the chicken can sit in the marinade throughout the day and will be flavorful, very tender and ready for the grill pan or skillet by dinnertime.
I suppose you could call this recipe a Mexican-Moroccan fusion dish. It has all the elements of a traditional fajita, like bell pepper and spicy, fresh pico de gallo (and pineapple for extra juici- and sweetness) but the ras el hanout-spiced chicken adds a north African flavor bent as well. I used my homemade ras el hanout spice mix made with cinnamon, cumin, clove, coriander, cardamom, peppercorns, fenugreek and fennel seeds and it goes really well with the rest of the flavors and makes these fajitas special.
I mixed the spices into a yogurt marinade not only to flavor but also to tenderize the meat. I found that really important because I think chicken breast meat can be really tough otherwise. (It’s actually the same marinade I used for this Caesar salad the other day). The chicken should marinate for eight to ten hours so it’s perfect to throw it in in the morning and cook it at dinnertime. The preparation is very straightforward, you just sear the meat, the vegetables and the fruit on a grill pan or a cast iron skillet and 30 minutes later dinner is served!
- 1 large or two small boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 1 tablespoon ras el hanout (here is a ras el hanout recipe if you want to make your own)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- half a small red onion
- 3 Roma tomatoes
- ½ cup chopped, fresh cilantro
- 1 serrano pepper, ribs and seeds removed (if you want it spicier, leave some of the ribs and seeds in)
- lime juice to taste
- salt to taste
- half a red bell pepper
- half a green bell pepper
- 4 slices pineapple (fresh or out of a can)
- flour or corn tortillas
- Cut the chicken breast(s) into bite-sized pieces.
- Whisk yogurt, ras el hanout, salt and lemon juice together in a bowl.
- Mix in the chicken cubes and marinate in the fridge for 8–10 hours.
- Peel and dice the red onion.
- Remove the seeds from the tomatoes, then dice them.
- Dice the serrano pepper.
- Mix all ingredients together and season with lime juice and salt.
- Slice the peppers, set aside.
- Drain the pineapple if using canned pineapple. Set aside.
- Shake the marinade off the chicken, then grill on a grill pan or a skillet.
- Grill the peppers and the pineapple.
- Warm the tortillas and fill with the chicken, pepper and pineapple.
- Serve with pico de gallo.
Food Photography and Styling: I’ve had this skillet for a long time and had only used it once in a photo years and years ago and then never again because I really didn’t like the look of the long, oval shape. And the truth is I’m actually still not quite comfortable with that, I wish the skillet were rounder and more plump so to speak but it’s the only fajita skillet I have so I used it here.
Since I always find it awkward to try to fit tortillas into a composition I grilled and then folded them up here so that I could stick them in between the skillet and the salsa rather than having them sitting around open somewhere in the composition as large, round yellow/white shapes. To make the photo look fresh and summery I used my through-the-doorframe lighting technique with only a very thin white curtain to create fairly hard shadows that looked like late afternoon outdoor light to me.
For info on what type of camera and lighting equipment I used head on over to my FAQ page.