Chicken Tagine with Almonds and Apricots
I’ve made this before, and look! I’ve even blogged about it already. So this post is somewhat of a cheat. But let me explain: usually, when I make things that I already have up on my blog, I either just eat whatever-it-is happily and that’s that, or, if the pictures from the original post are somewhat ghastly, I’ll snap a few photos of the dish to replace the old ones.
I’d like to think that this dish deserves a little more than that, though. In case you haven’t noticed (as in, in case you’re not one of the two people that has followed my blog from the very beginning), that post where I first talked about this lovely dish was my third post ever. So not only did the pictures qualify as ghastly, but I’m pretty sure it and this recipe have already gotten pushed down to what my sister calls “the black hole of social media storage,” to be forever forgotten. And what a sad fate for something that deserves so much more, you know?
So here we go, round two, of chicken tagine with almonds and apricots. I’m still fully immersed in my love affair with Middle Eastern food, and this dish is an obvious product of that. This recipe comes from Morocco, which even though Wikipedia is telling me is not part of what we define as the traditional Middle East but only qualifies as part of the “Greater” Middle East, I’m still saying it counts. The name of this dish, tagine, comes from the name of the clay pot this type of thing is traditionally served in, but here it’s simply signifying the origins and flavors from the spices used. In this case, the recipe instead suggests you use a dutch oven—which is probably best and especially so if you’re cooking up a cut-up whole chicken as the recipe originally prescribes. However, because I only cooked up a few chicken breasts (and because I sadly lack a dutch oven), I used a 12-inch oven-proof skillet with a lid (as you can probably note in the pictures). So once again, not really authentic. Once again, I’m still saying it counts.
Anyway, the flavors of this dish really stand out. The combination of tumeric, ginger, cinnamon and paprika are both sweet and savory, which is reinforced by the sweet-savory combination of the toasted nutty almonds and rehydrated apricots that are piled on top. The chicken is cooked in the style of braising, which ensures moist, tender chicken as long as you don’t leave it for its death in the oven. I love the mix of textures this all gives the meal too–pieces of juicy chicken with crunch from almonds, soft chew from the apricots, and all alongside pillows of couscous.
Speaking of which, if you’ve got a bundle of couscous in your pantry waiting to be used up, this is the perfect dish for it. After the chicken cooks completely you add a squeeze of lemon and a bit of honey to the braising liquid and let it reduce, making sure to scrape up the leftover bits of chicken goodness on the bottom of the pan. This sauce gets spooned over the chicken and a big heap of couscous, which of course soaks up all of the aforementioned goodness. It’s a pretty nice experience. Can you understand, now, why I thought this dish deserved a new moment in the spotlight?
Chicken Tagine with Almonds and Apricots
Adpated from David Lebovitz’s The Sweet Life in Paris
Serves 4 to 6
As mentioned above, the original recipe called for a whole chicken that’s been cut-up. The recipe here reflects my use of only using boneless, skinless chicken breasts that are cut into cutlets, so I can provide more accurate cooking times. That being said, the amount of time you braise the chicken will vary a lot depending on the amount of chicken or cuts of chicken that you use. Start checking it at 15 minutes of total braised time (if using less), but it might need up to the 50 minutes the original recipe calls for.
4 oz (125g) dried apricots
1 1/2 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into even-width cutlets (6 cutlets total)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground tumeric
2 teaspoons paprika
1/4 teaspoon saffron
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons course salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
2 tablespoons butter (or a combination of olive oil and butter)
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon honey
juice of 1/2 a lemon
3/4 cup very roughly chopped almonds, toasted
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Pour boiling water over the apricots in a small bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, toss the chicken cutlets with the ginger, tumeric, paprkia, saffron, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Set aside.
Melt the butter in a dutch oven, then add the onion and cook over medium heat until translucent but nut yet browning, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken, snuggling it among the onions. Cook the chicken for about 3 minutes, turning it halfway through. Pour in the stock and cover tightly. Bake in preheated oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until the breasts register 160 degrees, turning the chicken once during the braise. See note about cooking times–you might want to check the chicken to make sure it is fully cooked depending the quantity and cut you have.
Remove the dutch oven from the oven. Remove the chicken to a plate and cover with foil. Return the dutch oven over medium-high heat, add the honey and lemon juice, and let reduce into a pan sauce that is about 1/3 of its original volume. Taste for salt.
Return chicken to dutch oven, and add the rehydrated apricots (drained from their water) and almonds on top. Serve over couscous.