Friday, March 12, 2010

0 Recipe #86: Moroccan-Style Chicken Tagine

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I created this recipe on the fly a few night ago. As I'm not in the mood to give a lengthy discourse on the background & history of North African cuisine today, here's the short version of "Tagine 101": A tagine is a North-African dish (specifically from Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia) named after the clay vessel in which its cooked. Moroccan tagines are slow-cooked stews whereas Tunisian tagines are more like quiches or fritatas. If you'd like more in-depth information about tagines, you're welcome to read more about them here.

My particular version of is a Moroccan-influenced tagine, & contains a traditional spice mixture commonly found in Moroccan tagines called Ras el hanout (راس الحانوت). The ingredients in this spice mixture aren't an exact science, & tend to vary by region & family tradition. A typical mixture will include spices like cardamom, clove, cinnamon, paprika, coriander, cumin, nutmeg, peppercorn, and turmeric.

Please note that you don't need to purchase a tagine in order to make this recipe. It can be made using a conventional sauce pot or slow-cooker.  OK, it's time to get cooking....

Moroccan-Style Chicken Tagine

Marinade Ingredients:
8 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 medium-sized garlic cloves, peeled & minced
1/2 c. yoghurt
2 tsp. tomato paste
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. orange zest
1 pinch saffron
1 tsp. dried mint leaves
1 tsp. ground cardamom
1 tsp. ground paprika
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. clove powder
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. ground turmeric

Ingredients For Sautéeing:
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c. water (or more)
2 vine-ripened tomatoes, diced

Directions: Place all of the marinade ingredients into a Ziploc bag, press out air, & seal. Thoroughly massage ingredients together from the outside of the plastic bag. Refrigerate for about an hour or so. (It's also fine to marinate the mixture overnight for the next day's dinner.) When you're ready to cook, add olive oil to sauté pan, pour water & the contents of Ziploc bag into the pan, & cook on medium-low heat. Cook chicken for 5-7 minutes on each side & then add tomatoes.  Stir occasionally. Continue cooking chicken until the inside is no longer pink but is still moist & tender. Every few minutes, cut into chicken to check to see if it's done yet. Better to check more frequently & have a good outcome, than to check less frequently & end up with dry chicken. :)

Serving Suggestions: Garnish with fresh cilantro &/or pitted, sliced Kalamata or Greek olives. Serve with couscous or rice. These sides would taste particularly wonderful seasoned with mint, lemon juice, & a dash of salt & pepper. In general, I would recommend keeping the side dishes' spices to a minimum, since the tagine itself is packed with spices. Since the entrée's flavor takes center stage, simple sides are best.

Yield: 2 servings.

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