Chicken Tagine with Apricots and Almonds

Chicken Tagine with Apricots

This is the main dish that we made for Friday dinner with my friend Jason this week. The concept originated from recipe in Paula Wolfert’s book Food of Morocco, but ended up straying a bit far from the original. For those of you not familiar with tagines, the term refers to both a slow cooked dish and the lidded clay vessel in which it is cooked. For this one, chicken thighs are treated with a spice rub and allowed to rest overnight prior to slow cooking them in our large tagine for over an hour. At about the half-way point, vegetables and a reduced orange and apricot sauce are added. Shortly prior to serving, finishing vegetables are added and the dish is garnished with almonds and cilantro.

The end result is a delightfully flavored dish of melt off the bones chicken that is, surprisingly, moderately spiced. The apricot reduction adds tartness that accents the piney flavor of the parsnips perfectly. A couple of notes on ingredients: 1) this dish uses saffron-infused water in the spice rub. This is a much more efficient method for using saffron as it reduces waste and adds consistency. There is a link for making saffron water at the bottom of the post. 2) We buy our ras el hanout from a local spice vendor, but it is fairly simple to make. The formulation on food.com is pretty similar to what we use. 3) As noted above, this dish mildly, but adequately spiced. If you are looking for a more intensely spiced tagine, I recommend adding additional spices to the apricot reduction, add a bit more fluid (stock) and add it to the dish earlier in the cooking process.

For the rest of the meal, we served ground nut soup, steamed asparagus with vinaigrette, and a semolina-based yeast bread for dipping. Hope you enjoy!

… 

Read More »

Razor Clams, Shrimp, and Cod with Curry and Lemongrass

Clam Shrimp and Fish CurryWith clam season upon us here in the Pacific Northwest, there is more than a little pressure to get rid of the clams that I hoarded through the summer.  When frozen properly in water, these suckers can take up a considerable amount of room in the freezer.  As summer wears on and freezer space becomes more of a commodity, there comes a dawning realization that you really need to start cooking some clam-involved dishes.  Clam chowder is the standby, but one can not live on clams chowder alone…and if you did, you would either be the size of a walrus or simply dead.  It isn’t exactly low calorie or low fat.  When preparing such dishes, I have hear whispers in the dark recesses of my brain reminding that heart disease is still the number one killer the United States.

This seafood curry is my attempt to incorporate clams into a tasty, yet reasonably heart-healthy main dish.  Heck, there isn’t even any coconut milk in it.  The formulation is somewhat Thai is style but probably pulls in more variety in fish than would be considered common.  The yellow curry is slightly more mild and a bit sweeter than its green or red cousins and lines up well with the clams, which are also quite sweet.  Fragrant notes are provided by the lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves.  Turmeric and a bit of garlic provide some additional depth…. 

Read More »

Herbed Cod and Shrimp Baked in Phyllo

DSC_0107Up until yesterday, I had never cooked a fish tart…but I knew deep down inside that I needed to.  The base idea for this one came from Savory Baking by Mary Cech.  As I write this post, this book is listed for some ridiculously low price on Amazon.  Not sure what the deal is, but it a great book for those that like baking things that are not necessarily sweet.  Oh well, sometimes even good books get discontinued.

Anyway, with some adjustment of ingredients and spicing scheme, I ended up with something that was truly memorable.  The tarragon and dill really shine against the curry, and, surprising, the crushed black pepper is pronounced without being overwhelming.  The roast red pepper provides a little bit of interest and the lemon zest provides a great balance to cut through the staggering amount of butter that is used to assemble the phyllo.  Definitely a huge win for a first effort and not one that a would change too much…. 

Read More »

Dolmas – Grape Leaves stuffed with Lamb and Dried Cherries

DSC_0029One of the better things about summer and early fall in the Pacific Northwest is that this is the time that grape leaves finally get big enough to use in cooking.  That means that it is time to make dolmas …or at least my version of it.  And if you have your own particular version of this dish, you are not alone.  As it turns out, the idea of stuffing grapes leaves with various spices, dried fruits, grains, and meats is wildly popular.  Although the term is Turkish in origin and also refers to hollowed out and stuffed vegetables, stuffed vine leaves fall under the umbrella term.  I make mine with lamb, dried cherries, and rice and spice them pretty conservatively with allspice, cinnamon, and paprika.  Tomato and lemon juice are there to sharpen the flavors somewhat and mint provides a nice aromatic touch.  Although dolmas are commonly baked as a casserole, I prefer mine steamed so that the texture is firmer…. 

Read More »

Tagine of Chicken with Figs and Dates

Tagine of Chicken with dates and figsSummertime is tagine time at our house because summer is when laziness rules supreme.   Tagines are a lazy cooks sort of dish; you heat the tagine, add the first group of components, wait, add the second group of components, wait some more, and then eat.  This is perfect for those summer days where you really have more pressing things than cooking on your mind (such as yard work or laying in a hammock).  If you have a side burner on your grill, you get the added benefit of not heating the house up when you cook.

This particular tagine is a thing of spiced, fruity glory.  The onions are cooked, together with a pile of spices, long enough to caramelize them.  I can promise that soyou will not be left wishing you had more richness in the dish.  The chicken, once added, is cooked together with chicken stock, and the figs and dates.  The end result is a sweet, but not cloying concoction that goes great with some Basmati rice or other similar pilaf.  After everything is in the pot, all you need to remember to do is periodically ladle out some of the excess liquid and reduce it on the stove.  Once thickened to the consistency of thin gravy (or you get tired of reducing it), return it to the tagine as you continue cooking.… 

Read More »