Thursday, January 3, 2013

Chicken Tagine (aka Wayne's favorite meal)

I've been away from Le Creuset and the blog for awhile.  Had a great Christmas in Denver with family.  Lots of catching up over good food and drink.  My sister Ali and her fiance Michael (who also loves to cook) shared cooking responsibilities with me.  For Christmas morning brunch they made an apple cake from Smitten Kitchen that was absolutely delicious:
They made it in a 13x9 glass pan instead of a bundt pan so it took alot less time to bake.  When I make it (and I most definitely will!) I will use the glass pan with gala apples as they did so it turns out just like theirs did.  Perfection.

Also worth mentioning, for Christmas Eve I tried out for the first time a meatball recipe from the Wine and Food Affair and they are THE BEST MEATBALLS EVER.  I promised to make them for my friend Shirley, so I will post about those along with the recipe sometime soon.  [Here it is!]

Wayne didn't join me in going to Denver for Christmas.  Before I left I promised him that I would make his absolute favorite meal, chicken tagine, over the holidays when I got back.  Upon my return I made a couple non soup or stew things, and we also ate out a few times (including Oren's Hummus Shop - more than once!).  It was getting close to the end of my holiday break, and I hadn't made good on my tagine promise.  So I decided for it to be our New Years Day meal with mimosas to sip as I chopped.

The downside of this recipe is that it requires ALOT of chopping.  But the flip side of that is that it makes a huge batch, so you get a great return on your investment with several meals where the flavors just get better with time.  But to give you a sense of what is involved - all 1/4 inch dice:

Note bowls are much larger than they appear!

But really the chopping is the bulk of it.  You brown the chicken at the beginning, then you saute the onions and garlic, bring the chicken broth to a simmer, and add all of the remaining ingredients over time.

It makes a very rich and flavorful broth.  You have the curry spices and the slight sweetness from the cinnamon and dried fruit.  Served over couscous it is an extremely satisfying winter comfort food.

Now a note of warning/advice.  This tagine is not at its best the day you make it, especially if you serve it right after it has finished the recommended amount of cooking time.  This really, really improves when it has time to set.  The broth thickens substantially and becomes much richer when it takes up the flavors of all of the ingredients.  If you can force yourself to wait until the next day for the first meal, you will be rewarded with a much more satisfying and soul-warming broth.

Chicken and Vegetables with Couscous
From The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins

2 chickens (2 1/2 to 3 lbs each), each cut into 8 pieces  [I use 3 lbs of boneless skinless thighs instead]
1/4 cup olive oil
2 onions, cut into 1/4-inch dice
6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
8 cups chicken broth
3 cinnamon sticks
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 large white turnip, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch dice
5 ripe plum tomatoes, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 cups pitted prunes, halved
1 cup golden raisins
steamed couscous

Heat the oil in a large dutch oven.  Cook the chicken in batches until opaque and slightly golden on both sides.  Do not overcook.  Transfer to a dish and set aside.

Add the onions and garlic to the dutch oven, and cook over low heat for 10 minutes.  Then add the chicken broth, cinnamon sticks and all the spices.  Bring to a boil, then continue boiling for 5 minutes.

Reduce the heat to a simmer, and add the chicken legs and thighs, carrots, zucchini, turnip and bell pepper.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Then add the chicken breasts, tomatoes, prunes, and raisins, and simmer an additional 10 minutes.

Remove the cinnamon sticks, and serve the tagine in deep bowls over steamed couscous.

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