Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Chicken tagine with prunes

A tagine is a slow-cooked Moroccan stew, and also the name of the dish in which it is traditionally prepared , a sort of a flat earthenware casserole with a conical top -- very poetic, but not very practical if you are cooking for more than two adults. I make no claims as to the authenticity of the recipe for this tagine, which I have cobbled together from a variety of sources, but it works. It is like a spicy chicken tzimmes. We made it for Seder (and served it with potato kugel), but it is a good year round dish and easy enough to make on weeknights. The key is that you don't brown the chicken before stewing it, but rather glaze it after while you are thickening the sauce, which regular readers of this blog will recognize as a favorite method of mine.

Chicken tagine with prunes

  • 1 three pound chicken, cut into eights, or 3 pounds chicken thighs (I think chicken thighs work best here, but some people like their white meat)
  • 1 large grated Spanish onion
  • 3-4 large sprigs of fresh coriander, washed well but left whole
  • 2 cloves mashed garlic (I left these out on Pesach because my mother hates garlic)
  • 1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (Moroccans use the dried spice, rather than fresh)\
  • 1-2 cinnamon sticks (optional -- nice, but it depends on how the other dishes are spiced)
  • large pinch of saffron, toasted in a skillet briefly and then soaked in 1/4 cup water for a few minutes
  • pinch of turmeric
  • salt
  • 12 oz. dried pitted prunes
  • 1 cup black raisins (optional)
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1-2 inch pieces
  1. Soak prunes and raisins in warm water about 30 minutes.
  2. If you want a lighter dish, you can remove the skin from the chicken, in which case you should skip step #6, broiling the chicken.
  3. Put chicken in a pot with onion, coriander, garlic, spices (including saffron water) and salt. Bring to a simmer and stew about 20 minutes.
  4. Drain the raisins and prunes and add to the chicken, along with the carrots, and cook about 20-25 more minutes until chicken is done.
  5. Remove chicken from the pot and place skin side up in an oven and broiler safe serving dish.
  6. Broil chicken until the skin in brown. Be careful that you don't burn it.
  7. Meanwhile, remove the coriander sprigs and taste the sauce, especially for the balance of heat, sweet and salt. Adjust seasonings if necessary, and boil down until the sauce is thick.
  8. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve. It also keeps nicely if you hold it in a low oven, and reheats well, especially if you use the thighs. Serve with couscous, mashed potatoes, rice, kugel on Pesach, or thick Israeli-style pita.
  9. Serves 4 generously.
Couscous: I use Claudia Roden's method. Combine equal amounts of couscous and salted boiling water (1 to 1.5 cups should be more than enough for 4), in an oven safe dish, covered, for about 20 minutes. Oil your hands lightly and massage the couscous to separate the grains. This makes it fluffy and is actually kind of fun. Dot with a little pareve margarine (butter if you are not fussy about these things) and heat covered in the oven at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. The temperature is flexible, and it can also sit in the oven. While I used to only prepare couscous in a couscousierre, a tall cylindrical pot with a steamer on top for the couscous and massage it twice, following Paula Wolfert's directions. It was a pain in the neck and frankly doesn't come out appreciably better than Roden's way. In her recent cookbook, Mediterranean Grains and Greens, Wolfert really goes over the top and tells people to roll their own couscous from semolina. (For a great review/appreciation/sendup of this book, see Nicholas Lemann's review "The Diva" from Slate.) However, I do agree with Wolfert that instant couscous is an abomination.

Spices on Pesach:   Due to changes in the ways that spices are processed, some ground spices may contain hametz.  If this is of concern and you cannot find Kosher for Passover spices, you can leave out the turmeric and substitute a 1 tablespoon grated ginger for the dried.  The saffron should not present a problem, and black pepper is widely available K for P or may be ground fresh.  Pereg, an Israeli brand, produces many K for P spices.  Also, Penzeys spices are pure, high-quality, and prepared without any addititives that might contain hametz, such as anti-caking agents.  People far stricter than I am use them with confidence.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like it would go well with Lahoh (soft Yeminite flat bread) -George