Monday, January 24, 2011

Tagine of Chicken, Apricots, and Almonds

From my reading of many tagine recipes, all manner of proteins and vegetables are used, but it is the spices that really matter. So don't take the recipe below as a prescription. Any sturdy protein could be substituted. Use the vegetables you have around and like. Some recipes have raisins. The almonds are optional. I also don't have a traditional tagine--the clay vessel that is traditional. I used my Le Creuset enameled dutch oven, which worked just fine.

Not optional are traditional Morrocan spices. The ras el hanout in this recipe is from The Spice House in Chicago, and their mixture contains Tellicherry black pepper, cardamom, salt, ginger, cinnamon, mace, turmeric, allspice, nutmeg, and saffron. I added a little more cinnamon, also purchased recently from The Spice House--a Cinnamomum Zeylanicum, or True Ceylon cinnamon. Another secret ingredient is harissa, a paste made of chiles, garlic, sundried tomatoes, coriander, and caraway.

Served with a traditional buttered couscous, the taste was mesmerizing.

Tagine of Chicken, Apricots, and Almonds

1 large onion, sliced into 2-3 inch strips
1 or 2 T. olive oil
a pound or so of chicken thighs
ras el hanout, about a tablespoon
harissa to taste (I used about a tablespoon)
a knob of ginger, minced
some garlic, to taste, crushed and left whole
1/2 c. chopped apricots
1/2 c. blanched slivered almonds
1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
14 oz. can diced tomatoes
14 oz. can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
some salt
handfuls of cilantro, chopped

Brown the chicken in chunks in olive oil. Toast the almonds in the oil with the chicken. Remove and saute the onions with salt. Return the chicken to the pot and add ras el hanout and let the flavors meld a bit. When the mixture seems dry, add a little water to get the browned bits up from the pan. Add garlic, ginger, apricots, harissa, bell pepper, and tomatoes. Let this mixture stew for 20-30 minutes, covered. Add garbanzo beans and cover for 10 more minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. I added a little more cinnamon. Stir in chopped cilantro at the end, reserving some for garnish.

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