December 20, 2012

A Little Tagine Does the Heart Good

This is the season of cinnamon. And ginger…of savoury and sweet…of warmth.

I made this again last week for my friends. And they seemed to love it. I think the power of these spices is perfect for this time of year, in this cold and wintry landscape, even though tagine comes from a hot part of the world. Tagine is one of those impressive dishes that is just a lovely, spicy stew - you can make it with anything - I've written about lamb tagine before. And this one made of chicken is a lovely, lovely recipe that will wrap up all these flavours and senses and feed you well.

Chicken Tagine with Apricots and Almonds – adapted from
serves 4 - but I did scale it up successfully 

1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp black pepper
1 ¼ tsp salt
3 tbsp olive oil
3-lb chicken in pieces (I’ve used bone-in thighs and boneless thighs – both worked)
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 medium red onion, halved, then sliced ¼ inch thick (although I don't think a white onion would be remiss)
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5 sprigs fresh cilantro
5 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 ½ cups water
2 tbsp mild honey
3 inch stick of cinnamon
½ cup dried Turkish apricots, separated into halves (that is, the hard way – slice them open and through)
1/3 whole blanched almonds

Stir together the ground cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, pepper, 1 tsp salt, and 2 tbsp oil in a large bowl. Add chicken and turn to coat well. This smells so amazing…

Heat butter and 1 tbsp oil in base of a skillet, uncovered, over moderate heat until hot but not smoking. Brown half the chicken pieces, skin sides down, turning over once, 8 to 12 minutes.

Transfer to a plate.

Brown the rest of the chicken adding any spice mixture left in bowl.

If you’re doing a lot of chicken (I doubled the recipe last time) keep an eye on the smoke and burning at the bottom of the pan…I would recommend stopping at the halfway point and starting again with a clean pan and oil…you’ll need the fond at the bottom of the pan later and you don't want it to be burnt as it melds with the sauce in the pan…

Add onion and remaining 1/4 tsp salt to pan and cook, uncovered, stirring frequently, until soft, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes.

Tie cilantro and parsley into a bundle with kitchen string and add to tagine along with 1/2 cup water, chicken, and any juices accumulated on plate. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, 30 minutes.

While chicken cooks, bring honey, remaining cup water, cinnamon stick, and apricots to a boil in a  heavy saucepan, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until apricots are very tender (add more water if necessary). Once apricots are tender, simmer until liquid is reduced to a glaze, 10 to 15 minutes.

I never came close to running dry...and never quite achieved the "glaze" they talk about...but I'll try this again...and if you try and succeed, can you let me know?

Heat a small skillet and cook the whole almonds, keeping a close eye, until just golden, 1 to 2 minutes. The recipe calls for this to be done in a 1/4 cup of olive oil. But I did them in a dry skillet - as I said...keep a close eye.

Ten minutes before chicken is done, add apricot mixture to the chicken. Discard herbs and cinnamon stick. When you serve the dish, sprinkle the top with the almonds and some more chopped parsley. I served this with rice – but green beans, or a simple salad, or couscous, quinoa would be great too.

No comments: