Chicken Tagine with Dried Apricots
I recently cooked my first recipe from Paula Wolfert’s beautiful new cookbook, The Food of Morocco. I made the ”Chicken Tagine with Dried Apricots and Pine Nuts” (or sesame seeds). I had most of the ingredients on hand already, and the tagine I bought last year. The full recipe (slightly modified) is at the end of the post.
First, I prepped ingredients, while enjoying my white wine aperitif. I love any excuse to use my Italian marble mortar, a birthday gift from years ago. The saffron water was a gorgeous color.
I put together the marinade and rubbed it on the chicken, and let it sit while I cut the onions and then cooked them until soft in the tagine.
After the onions were very soft, I browned the chicken and added herbs and a little hot water to the tagine, and simmered, covered.
While the chicken cooked in the tagine, I made the sauce, with fresh orange juice, apricots, cinnamon, sugar – it cooked on low about 30 minutes, until reduced. Then I added the sauce to the tagine, once the chicken was cooked through, and after spooning off some of the fat.
The final step is to put the base of the tagine under the broiler just briefly, until it gets a few bits of brown on top, and then to sprinkle with sesame seeds. I served it over cooked Teff, but if you eat wheat it would be traditional to eat over couscous. Delicious! Recipe below.
Chicken Tagine with Dried Apricots and Pine Nuts, from Paula Wolfert’s The Food of Morocco:
- 4 large chicken thighs, about 2 pounds
- 1 small garlic clove
- coarse salt
- 2 tablespoons saffron water
- 1 tablespoon La Kama spice mix
- 1 teaspoon Smen, optional (I did not have this)
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 7 to 10 sprigs each fresh cilanto and flat-leaf parsley, tied together
- 20 dried apricots, about 5-1/2 oz, preferably moist and chewy
- 1/3 cup orange juice
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 2-inch cinnamon stick
- freshly ground white pepper
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts OR toasted sesame seeds (I used black sesame seeds)
La Kama Spice Mix
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, (Moroccans grind this from sticks)
- 1/2 teaspoon cubeb pepper, optional (I did not have this)
- 1 healthy pinch grated nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
- 1 cup hot water
1. La Kama Spice Mix. For the La Kama spice mix, mix the ground spices thoroughly. She says to sift them but I just stirred them a lot until all lumps gone. Then store in jar in cool, dark place.
2. Saffron Water. For the Saffron water, dry 1/2 teaspoon crumbed saffron strands in a warm (not hot) skillet. Crush again, then soak in 1 cup hot water. Store in a small jar in the fridge, will keep for up to a week. (I used more like 1/8 teaspoon saffron and 1/4 cup hot water since I knew I was unlikely to use the extra within a week.)
3. Trim the chicken of excess fat, wash and pat dry. Slide your fingers under the skin to loosen.
4. Crush the garlic with 1/2 t coarse salt in a mortar. Stir in the saffron water, spices, smen if using, and 1-1/2 t of sugar. Coat the chicken with the mixture on all sides and under the skin (I did this in a glass bowl), then allow to stand for 30 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, put the onion, oil, a pinch of salt, and 1/4 cup water in a medium tagine, preferably flameware, set on a heat diffuser over medium-low heat and cook, covered, unit the onion is soft and golden, about 20 minutes. (this took a bit longer for me, takes a bit for the tagine to get fully heated I think.)
6. Add the chicken and marinade to the tagine and lightly color each piece on both sides – I turned the heat up to medium-high for this and watched carefully. Then add the herbs and 1/4 cup hot water, reduce heat to a bare simmer, and cook, covered, 45 minutes, turning the thighs once for even cooking.
7. Meanwhile, place the apricots, orange juice, the remaining 2-1/2 T sugar, the butter, and cinnamon stick in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until the liquid is reduced and syrupy, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and discard the cinnamon stick before use.
8. Uncover the tagine and skim off the excess fat from the cooking liquid. Add the apricots and the syrup and continue to cook, covered, until the chicken thighs are cooked through and the flesh is nearly falling off the bone. (I did another 20 minutes but you could easily do longer.) Add salt to taste and a good pinch of white pepper.
9. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and cook, covered, yet another 10 minutes. Then discard the herbs. Meanwhile, heat the broiler, with a rack 7 to 9 inches from the broiler.
10. If your tagine is flameware/ovenproof, you can just take the lid off the tagine and slide the base in under the broiler until just glazed, 1 to 3 minutes, watch carefully. (If your tagine is not flameware, you’ll need to transfer the contents of the tagine to an ovenproof dish.) Then spoon the sauce over the chicken, sprinkle with the pine nuts or sesame seeds, and serve immediately. I served this over teff, which was delicious.