Moroccan Chicken Tajine
Moroccan food? What exactly IS that?!
Yeah, I thought the same thing, but it’s really full of unique and complex flavors that are worth checking out the next time you’re feeling adventurous.
Adventurous? Well, you gotta consider that Morocco has been on the trade routes for spices for thousands of years, and consequently, they’ve got a little bit of everything. This recipe here has flavors blended from several different spices, and that’s rather pedestrian by Moroccan standards. Still, if you’re looking to see what African cuisine is like, a tajine is a good place to start.
First off, the tajine is both the cooking vessel and whats cooked in it. That pic of the food? That’s what’s inside. This one right here? That’s what the pot looks like. The handle stays cool during cooking, so it’s easy to lift the lid and give it a stir every once in awhile. Typically, this earthenware vessel would be placed directly over a flame for the heat source, but you can buy one that’ll work right on your stove top. If you’re not interested in spending $40 bucks on a pot you’ll only use once in a great while, a good heavy-bottom deep skillet will work just as well.
Secondly, I decided that since this recipe calls for some spices that plenty of people may not be familiar with, I’ve included links to the wikipedia entry for each of the spices used, hope this helps you in your efforts to expand your culinary/world view.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 teaspoons ground cumin
3 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2-3 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
4-6 cloves garlic, smashed or minced
2-3 tablepsoons of roughly chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into large chunks
2 tablespoons moroccan adobo spice blend or ras el hanout (recipes follow)
2 large yellow onions, rough chopped
1 cup pitted prunes
1/2 cup golden raisins
6 oranges, sectioned or cut into supremes
1 1/2 cups green or kalamata olives, preferrably pitted
3-4 cups chicken stock
Heat your pan over high heat. season the chicken with either the adobo or ras el hanout. Add the olive oil to the pan, and just as it starts to smoke, add the chicken. Move it around so that the chicken is in an even layer across the bottom of the pan, and then let it just sear for 2-3 minutes.
Once all sides of the chicken have been seared, reduce to medium-high heat and add the onions and garlic. There should be a little moisture in the pan from the chicken, but add 1/4 cup of stock if necessary.
Cook until the onions clarify, then add the raisins, dates, and spices, stirring to mix thoroughly. Add half the stock, cover, and let simmer over medium heat for 10-12 minutes.
Add the apples, oranges, mint and cilantro and stir to mix thoroughly. Let simmer another 5 minutes.
Top with scallions and serve over couscous.
2 cups couscous (I prefer toasted pearl couscous)
4 1/2 cups veal or dark chicken stock
Bring the stock to a simmer. Add the couscous and stock to a large bowl. Cover and let stand for 10 minutes. Serve immediately.
Adobo Marroqui spice blend
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 tablespoon dehydrated lemon zest
1/2 tablepoon ground coriander
1/2 tablespoon turmeric
1/4 tablepoon cinnamon
Ras el Hanout spice blend
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Generous pinch saffron threads
A quick note on spices: most of the spices in the adobo and ras el hanout can and should be toasted before grinding them fresh just before adding them to your mix and using them in the recipe. Toasting the spices makes an unbelievable difference in the intensity and depth of flavor, and should be done as often as possible to achieve maximum flavor.
Toasting is easy – add all the spices to a skillet and set over medium-high heat. Don’t walk away, your spices can burn in the blink of an eye. Stand right over it and keep the spices moving in the pan with a sautee motion or by stirring with a spoon. As soon as you see the first seeds start to darken and smoke, you’re there – take it off the heat, dump it into a spice grinder or coffee grinder and grind away. Try not to drool as the heavenly aroma surrounds you.