Hello friends! Apologies for the lack of posts recently. As you can see, I’ve migrated over to WordPress (you will always be remembered as my first love, Blogspot), which I am told is more “professional”.
Some of you may be receiving a post notification email from me for the first time and are thinking, “I did not sign up for this. How rude!” I added people I thought might be interested in reading up on foodie adventures, but PLEASE let me know if you’re not and I can remove you from ze list!
Down to biznass.
If any of you out there haven’t tried Moroccan food, think of it as a more bad ass version of your plain old meat and potatoes. Why?
- Those North Africans know their spices and use them to kick some serious taste bud booty
- Because of all the spice combinations, the food does not rely on fat for flavor
- The list of typical ingredients (cous cous, chicken, lamb, chick peas, nuts) is not only more diverse than what most WASPs are used to, but it’s also a lost healthier. It’s a lot more “straightforward” way of cooking, meaning that there is less frying, breading, etc. and more simmering, marinating, and slow cooking.
I am in no way, shape, or form saying that fried food isn’t fantastic. I love it. Gosh darn it, I LIVE it half the time. But as I age and my metabolism continues to slow to a glacial pace, eating like a 12 year old boy is no longer an option. To find something as flavorful and healthy as Moroccan food is a god send!
I found this fantastic recipe from my good friends and CooksIllustrated.com and was able to actually make it thanks to my dear and wonderful father, who gave me this:
A new 7-qt Le Creuset dutch oven. Sigh. Isn’t she a beauty? So shapely. So vibrant. So…perfect. Thank you, Pater!
This particular dish is “Moroccan Chicken with Chick Peas and Apricots” and it would be a great dish to try if you aren’t super familiar with Moroccan food. It’s fairly mild, has a blend of spices that are all probably sitting in your cabinet now, and is incredibly easy. Plus it’s tasty!
Here’s what you’ll need:
1 1/4 t sweet paprika (there are a few varieties in the store: sweet, smoked, and one I can’t remember. Get sweet!)
1/2 t ground cumin
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1/2 t ground ginger
1/4 t ground coriander
1/4 t cinnamon
3 strips lemon zest (use a veg. peeler to shave off some strips)
3 T lemon juice
5 cloves garlic, minced
8-10 chicken pieces (I used 4 drumsticks, 4 thighs, and 1 breast cut in 2)
S & P
1 T olive oil
1 large onion, halved and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 3/4cups chicken broth
1 T honey
2 carrots, cut into 1/2 in moons
1 cup dried apricots, halved or quartered. I used Turkish Apricots, which were quite yummy
1 can chick peas, drained and rinsed
See? Nothing too complicated for our tiny little brains.
To start, mix all of the spices in a bowl together and set aside. Mince one of the lemon strips and smush it together with 1 t garlic, then set aside.
Liberally salt and pepper the chicken on both sides, then brown evenly over medium-high heat.
Remove from the pan and take off the skin, nomming it until you have chicken grease all over your face. Most excellent.
Add the sliced onion and remaining lemon slices to the pot (make sure there is about 1 T of oil remaining):
and saute for about 5ish minutes, or until a little softened. You don’t want them to be “flimsy” at this point, just a tad translucent. If the pan is sticky from all the chicken-fried goodness, add a tablespoon of water to loosen things up a bit. Add the remaining garlic and cook until fragrant, about a minute. Then add the spice mixture and cook another minute, until your salivary glands have run out of fuel.
Slowly stir in the broth and honey, scraping the bottom to get up all the brown bits. Add in the thighs and drumsticks (not the breasts), reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 5ish minutes.
Layer your chopped carrots and apricots over the dark meats:
And add the breasts on top of that, with any accumulated juices:
Reduce heat to medium-low (a very low simmer), cover, and cook for about 15-20 minutes. The chicken should register 160 degrees on a thermometer. When it’s done, remove it and set aside on a plate (cover with foil to keep it warm). Add the chickpeas to the pot and simmer for a couple of minutes.
Add the garlic/lemon zest mixture and the lemon juice, then put the chicken back in and stir it up.
Gorgeous, eh? Flavor with salt and pepper and you are dressed to impress!
I served this with some whole wheat israeli couscous mixed with toasted almonds and goat cheese (yea, YUM). Couscous is fantastically easy: saute some shallots, add the grains and toast for a few minutes, then add water and simmer for roughly 20 minutes (israeli couscous is much larger and takes more time than “normal” couscous, which takes only 7 minutes).
The apricots from the stew and the almonds from the couscous formed a winning partnership, and the spice combination overall was a wallop of goodness. I brought this to a neighbor-bonding potluck and it was loved by one and by all!