The nights are getting cool again, which inspires me to think about cooking in my tagine. (You could also use a heavy ceramic-coated cast iron baking dish with a lid, if you don’t have a tagine.) I have Paula Wolfert’s beautiful cookbook, The Food of Morocco (2011), and this recipe, “Chicken Tagine with Prune and Almonds in the Style of the Rif Mountains,” jumped out at me as straightforward, gluten-free, and calling for ingredients I mostly had on hand already.
Here’s the ingredients list first, and then the recipe method with my comments and photos.
- 1 3-1/4 pound chicken, preferably organic and air-chilled. (I used 4 chicken thighs)
- coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin, preferably Moroccan, or more to taste
- 12 ounces moist prunes, pitted
- 2-3 teaspoons ground Ceylon cinnamon (I used 2 teaspoons)
- 2 large yellow onions, halved and sliced lengthwise (I used 1 very large onion, since I used less chicken than it called for)
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 cup blanched whole almonds (I used blanched slivered almonds, skinless)
- vegetable oil for frying
- teff, for serving (traditionally would probably be couscous, but I needed a gluten-free option)
(and I made a kale and garlic side dish)
1. Rinse the chicken and pat dry, trim away excess fat. Cut off the wings and legs, leaving the breast in one piece. (Again, I just used thighs.) Rub all the pieces with the salt, pepper, and the cumin. (I used a very coarse sea salt, and rubbed it under the skin as well as on top of the skin.) Let stand 1 hour. (I didn’t let it stand quite the full hour, more like 35 minutes, still tasted wonderful.)
2. Meanwhile, cover the prunes with cold water in a small saucepan and add the cinnamon. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside.
3. Place the onions in a wide, shallow casserole dish (I used my tagine), with the turmeric, ginger, salt and pepper to taste, and 1/4 cup water, cover, and steam for 15 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, brown the almonds in 4 or 5 T oil in a large skillet. (I used slivered almonds. Stir constantly over medium heat until they turn a very light brown color.) Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
5. Brown the chicken on all sides in the same oil (about 5 minutes per side) and then transfer to the steamed onions. Cover with a sheet of parchment paper (this keeps the liquid from escaping as steam out the hole in the lid of the tagine) and cook over low heat for 1-1/4 hours. (Note, my onions were starting to get dry so I added another almost 1/4 cup of water with the chicken, but in hindsight I would not add water – the parchment paper kept it moist. I ended up taking out the parchment paper for the last 20 minutes to let some of the sauce evaporate. I also turned the chicken pieces over once, about an hour in to the cooking.)
6. Discard the parchment paper. Add the cooked prunes to the casserole and bring to a boil. (I note that the recipe did not specify, if I was to add the cinnamon water along with the cooked prunes. I assumed yes, but did not add quite all the cinnamon water since my tagine was already a bit over-juicy. But next time I think I would add it all. It was about 1/2 cup of liquid, and thick with cinnamon.)
Bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Then the recipe said to remove the chicken to a serving platter, breast in the middle, and arrange the legs and wings all around, and then cover with the sauce and sprinkle with the almonds and serve at one. I just sprinkled the almonds into the tagine and served that way.
7. I cooked up 1/2 cup teff (in 2 cups lightly salted boiling water), for half an hour, is a very good accompaniment to dishes like this with delicious sauces, and is gluten-free. Very small grained, light flavor, creamy texture. I also stir fried some kale on the side – I cooked garlic in oil, added the already-boiled kale, stirred for a few minutes, and then topped with sea salt and some red pepper flakes.
The four thighs could serve 4 people if you have hearty servings of the grain to go under it, and a vegetable on the side. There was just the two of us eating so we had some leftovers for lunch the next day.