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!
- 5 to 6 bone-in chicken thighs (skin on)
- 2 Tbs. Ras El Hanout (North African spice mixture)
- 2 cubes saffron water (total of 4 Tbs.)
- 2 Tbs. minced garlic
- 3 Tbs. Olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic sliced or rough cut
- 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 to 2 parsnips, cut into ½ inch chunks
- 8 to 10 baby carrots, halved
- 2 small zucchini, cut into ½ inch disks
- ¼ cup almonds, coarsely chopped
- 6 oz. dried apricots
- ½ cup orange juice
- one 2-inch piece cinnamon, roughly broken
- 1 tps. white pepper
- ⅓ cup cilanto, chopped
- Combine Ras El-Hanout, minced garlic, and saffron water to form a rough paste.
- Remove excess fat from thighs, wash and dry. Slide fingers under the skin to loosen skin and rub spice paste to coat pieces. Cover and allow to rest in refrigerator for 6 hours or overnight.
- One and a half hours before you would like to eat, heat olive oil in a large cast iron skillet. Over medium high to high heat, brown chicken. Set aside.
- Heat large tagine over medium flame. Add olive oil to coat base, add onions and sliced garlic. Cover and cook until softened, about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Arrange chicken pieces in a circle in the tagine, add root vegetables in around edges, cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 45 minutes to an hour, depending on size.
- While chicken is cooking, place orange juice, apricots, and cinnamon in a medium sauce pan. Cook over medium-high heat until juice is reduce by ½ and apricots are soft.
- Flip chicken, rearranging in a circle. Add reduced sauce and cover for 15 minutes.
- Check chicken for doneness. If meat separates from bones easily, dust chicken with white pepper, add zuchini slices and almonds, cover and continue cooking an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Garish with cilantro and serve.