Well this is the 7th post in my Moroccan Series and I am finally presenting you with the iconic Moroccan dish, a tagine. It’s not that I haven’t tried to post one before, but either the pictures weren’t up to my standard, or I never had the time to photograph the finished product. A chicken tagine with prunes, photographed poorly; my first attempt at today’s dish was gobbled up too fast for photographing; and few vegetable tagines just never got photographed because I was too busy. So here we are with this lovely dish and I am very happy to post it at last! For any of you unfamiliar with the word “tagine”, it refers to the elegant dish that the food is cooked in ( see picture below), and it refers to the actual recipe that is cooked in the tagine – usually some combination of meat and dried fruit or a combination of vegetables.
Today’s recipe is like an exotic trip – a dish that would be served in a story from the Arabian Nights. I absolutely love the way Moroccans combine warn with sweet. You will find that most tagines are a combination of meat with some sort of dried fruit; be it apricots, prunes or raisins. The addition of the caramelized walnuts here, add another layer of sweet and crunchy to this already complex recipe. At a traditional Moroccan meal, this tagine would be at the centre. It would be accompanied by a giant bowl of couscous, breads, vegetables and a wide variety of other savoury dishes. When I served this to my family a few weeks ago, I made a wonderful vegetable tagine and a huge bowl of couscous as accompaniments. What a feast it was!
I am bringing this tagine over to Fiesta Friday tonight! I know that the gang there appreciates dishes from around the world, so hopefully they will like this one too! If you haven’t checked out Angie’s amazing Friday night blog party, you don’t know what you’re missing! Come and join us!
This recipe comes from the April/May, 2014 issue of the Fine Cooking magazine.
A couple of notes: if you don’t own a tagine, just use a deeper skillet with a lid.
Also, you can make this with boneless, skinless chicken thighs, which I really like. The cooking time will be reduced too. Just keep you eyes on the doneness of the meat.
Sweet Chicken Tagine with Apricots and Caramelized Walnuts
1 generous pinch saffron threads (about 20)
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon ground ginger
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 bone-in chicken drumsticks and 4 bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed and excess fat trimmed
3 medium yellow or red onions, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise (5 cups)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
¾ cup dried apricots
¼ cup honey
1 cinnamon stick
Orange flower water (optional)
2/3 cup walnut halves
Toast the saffron threads in a small skillet over medium heat, shaking the pan often, until they turn a darker shade, about 1 – 2 minutes.
Transfer to a large bowl and using the back of a spoon, crush them until they are fragrant. Add the garlic, parsley, 1 tablespoon cilantro, ginger, ¼ teaspoon salt, and some pepper. Stir to combine. Add the oil and 2 tablespoons water. Stir again.
Add the chicken pieces, being sure to coat each one with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, turning once or twice. (Better if left overnight.)
Scatter the onions over the bottom of an 11 – 12 inch tagine. Arrange the chicken pieces in a snug single layer on top and drizzle with any remaining marinade. Dot with 1 tablespoon of the butter. Cook over medium heat, turning the chicken occasionally until the onions are translucent, about 15 minutes.
Cover the tagine with the lid, propping open with a wooden spoon, between the pan and the lid to keep it from sealing. Turn the heat to low and gently simmer until the chicken is tender, but not falling off the bone, about 45 minutes. If it looks like the sauce is drying out, add a few tablespoons of water. If it is too watery, remove the lid at the end of the cooking and allow sauce to reduce.
Meanwhile, put the apricots, 2 tablespoons honey, the cinnamon stick, a few drops orange flower water and ¾ cup water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer, then reduce temperature to low and simmer gently until the apricots are tender and the liquid has reduced to about 2 tablespoons of syrup, about 10 – 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Discard the cinnamon stick.
Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a small non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons honey and the walnuts and cook constantly and slowly until they have a light chewy coating, about 4 – 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with parchment paper. Spread in a single layer and let cool. When cooled, separate any walnuts that are stuck together. Don’t start nibbling on these; you won’t be able to stop and there won’t be any left for the dish!!
When the chicken is done, arrange the apricots around the chicken, drizzle with the apricot syrup. Reheat the chicken slowly over low heat for about 5 – 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Scatter the walnuts and the remaining 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro over the top of the dish.
Serve with couscous and a vegetable dish of your choice. I have a wonderful recipe for Moroccan style vegetables that I will post soon.