It was a cold and stormy Sunday so made for a perfect night to invite friends over to the orphanage for family supper. I'm staying with my friend Rachel and Mara is in town as well so we've taken to calling the cozy apartment the orphanage as it's offering us refuge from various things. We decided on going with a Moroccan theme. Rachel had gotten a beautiful orange Le Creuset pot and ever since she bought it had the idea of making tagine – tonight was the perfect occasion. This was a great meal for entertaining because it was easy to make ahead and produced the most incredible aromas that warmed the apartment. The recipe called for some exotic spice mixes that were easier to come across than I'd expected and added depth and complexity to the dish. This is definitely a crowd pleaser and only gets better the longer it cooks.
Chicken and Chickpea Tagine with Apricots and Harissa Sauce
This recipe is an adaptation of a Bobby Flay recipe
Olive oil 8 chicken thighs (I used 4 drumsticks and 4 chicken thighs) Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon ras al-hanut (a mix of Moroccan spices that you should be able to find at specialty/gourmet markets)
Large pinch saffron, soaked in 1/4 cup warm water
1 cinnamon stick
15 oz. can of diced tomatoes
15 oz. can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup dried apricots, sliced into half moons
1 cup water
1 tablespoon honey
Harissa (paste of chilies, garlic, and spices – available at specialty/gourmet markets)
Chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
Chopped fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish
1) Make the harissa sauce that will serve as a condiment by mixing together 1/2 cup creme fraiche with 1 tablespoon harissa. Refrigerate until ready to eat.
2) In a Le Creuset dutch oven or tagine heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add to the pot skin side down cooking for about 2 minutes on each side just to brown them and then remove to a plate and set aside. You might need to work in batches here – best not to crowd the pot.
3) If necessary remove or add some of the oil from the pot – you want about 2 tablespoons. Add the chopped onion and cook over medium heat until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the ras al-hanut and cook for 30 seconds. (The aromas will be released by the heat – so amazing!) Add the saffron and liquid, cinnamon stick, tomatoes, chickpeas, and apricots. Bring to a simmer. Add the cup of water, honey, and add salt to taste.
4) Nestle the chicken into the mixture and place the lid on the pot and simmer on low heat for 40 minutes without removing the lid.
5) Make the couscous according to the directions on the box.
To serve add a heap of couscous to the plate topping with the chicken and dollop with the harissa sauce (the harissa sauce is spicy so add according to your taste). Garnish with the parsley and cilantro.
The perfect accompaniment to this lightly spicy dish is Mara's cool cucumber salad with pita.