Moroccan Chicken With Prunes, Almonds and Honey
In North Africa, a tagine is cooked in a round earthware dish of the same name, with a large flat bottom and a conical top. This allows maximum concentration of flavor as the meat, fruit and vegetables are cooking. But if you don’t have one, and I don’t, not to worry — tagines can also be made beautifully in a heavy stewing pot, preferably enamel-lined.
This recipe is a classic Moroccan combination of chicken with prunes, roasted almonds, roasted sesame seeds and honey. For a more exotic flavor, a second recipe — for a tagine with olives and preserved lemon — may be found beneath the first one.
4 chicken legs
1 chicken liver
1 large onion or 2 medium onions, minced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
3 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 pinch of powdered saffron (1/16 tsp.)
1/2 tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 cups water
1/2 pound (250 g.) pitted prunes
2/3 cup (80 g.) whole blanched almonds
1 tbsp. sesame seeds
2 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. fresh cilantro, finely snipped
Using a sharp knife, separate the chicken thighs from the drumsticks. Heat the olive oil to sizzling in a large stewing pot. Add the chicken pieces and the liver, lower the heat to medium, and cook until the pieces are browned on all sides, about 5 minutes.
Add the onions and garlic. Stir until wilted with a wooden spatula. Add the cinnamon and saffron and stir. Season with salt and pepper and stir. Add the water. Scrape the bottom of the pot with your spatula to mix the drippings with the sauce. Simmer 30 minutes, partially covered.
While the chicken is cooking, roast first the almonds and then the sesame seeds in a medium-hot oven, about 5 minutes each. Be careful – they can easily burn. As soon as they begin to brown, remove from oven and transfer each separately to a cool dish.
When the chicken pieces are tender, remove from pot. Add the prunes to the pot and cook 10 minutes. Add the honey and cook 5 minutes more to allow the sauce to reduce.
Place the chicken back in the pot and reheat gently. Transfer to a serving dish. Strew with the almonds and sesame seeds. Snip some fresh cilantro over the dish for garnish. Serve with a big bowl of couscous and a hearty red wine. Serves 4-6.
Moroccan chicken with olives and preserved lemon
Begin the recipe as described above. Omit the prunes, almonds, sesame seeds and honey. Instead, after removing the chicken pieces from the pot, add 1/2 pound (250 g.) fine-quality Greek or North African green or reddish brown olives and one thoroughly rinsed and diced preserved lemon. Cook 10 minutes, transfer the chicken back to the pot, reheat gently and serve, decorated with fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley. Serves 4-6.
Preserved lemons can be hard to find outside France and North Africa. If they’re not available where you live, you can try making them yourself — here’s a recipe from David Lebovitz — or you can hunt online for a vendor not too far from you.