Back to the grindstone on this rainy Monday. Does anyone else notice that things get so hectic in the spring? My job has me running around like crazy and paperwork is beginning to take over my desk. I think my brain’s winter hibernation must come to an end.
On a cold, dreary day such as this, I like to imagine that I am someplace warm and foreign, perhaps even wishing for air conditioning it is so hot outside. While for the sake of the environment I won’t turn the thermostat up to 80* (and I don’t have control over the heat anyway, thanks cheap apartment!) I can still create my own little room of warmth and aroma by whipping up some Moroccan food.
Morocco’s warm spices and sweet flavors are such a comfort in rain or snow. Tangine style chicken has been on my list to make all winter; my hankering ebbed and waved with the temperature. I was craving the sweetness of dried fruit encompassed by Ras el hanout, but I always had another recipe lined up, ended up at a restaurant, or New England weather decided to become like summer in March. I think I might be too much of a planner. But tonight, my friends, that craving was satisfied.
A tagine is a classic Moroccan stew, named after the earthenware pot it is made in. The pot has a circular base with a unique, cone-shaped top ideal for cooking for long hours, as the condensation easily collects in the top and drips back in, allowing the stew to develop flavors without drying out. Such a pot has been Westernized into the less elaborate Dutch oven, used to make pot roast and lamb shank, American versions of this ancient dish. But the medley of Moroccan sweet and spiciness is what I craved, even though a Dutch oven is all I had.
Tagine Style Chicken with Raisins and Cashews
3 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch pieces
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon tumeric
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup cashews, crushed
Cilantro to garnish
In a Dutch oven, saute the garlic for a few minutes. Add the chicken pieces and let cook for 2 minutes on each side, or until browned.
Add the onion, raisins, spices and chicken stock. Bring to a boil then simmer, lid on, for 5 minutes.
Remove the lid and continue to simmer for 15 minutes, allowing the juices to reduce into a thick sauce. Taste and add cumin, salt, and pepper if needed.
Serve atop brown rice, garnished with cilantro and cashews.
As I was cooking I had to call Z in for some backup. After adding the broth the dish just looked like a watery mess. For a moment I forgot one of the most important things I have learned since beginning to cook: patience. Sometimes just a few more minutes of simmering and stirring will liven texture and deepen flavors. I sat down and started to get upset about my “fail” recipe, but when Z stirred the pot and added some more cumin and salt everything came together. Tonight’s cooking was a gentle reminder that if things don’t seem to go right, don’t give up immediately. There is always a way to make it better.
The aromas of this dish will draw anyone into the kitchen. I love the mixture of sweet and savory. Next time I would love to have some more dried fruit, perhaps apricots or dates. But the raisins brought nice bursts of juicy flavor that really made the dish. The addition of the fresh cilantro and the crunchy, sweet cashews added another dimension and excitement. The flavors of this meal were earthy and rich, perfect for attempting to wish the rain away. Or at least pretending I am in Morocco :).
What are your favorite garnishes? Fresh herbs are by far my favorite.