Monday, November 9, 2015

Moroccan Chicken with Tomatoes and Honey

My wonderful siblings got me a cookbook in Morocco that is both inspiring and idiosyncratically translated. The quantities are along the lines of "heaping coffeespoonful" and "one teaglassful". Many of the dishes have combinations of sweet and savory, fruit and meat, which intimidate me. I should try out more of these recipes than I do, but I thought this relatively simple one would be a good start.

Moroccans must be quite fertile, as these recipes often begin with "take 2 whole chickens, add 11 pounds of tomatoes...", so I scaled this one back for our 2-person family. The result was a deeply hearty, warming, satisfying stew, and I am finally reconsidering my dislike of sweetened meat dishes.

A thoughtful gift from Alex and Melanie for a food-obsessed person like me!
This dish has a wonderfully mellow, warming character. Almonds are supposed to be whole and blanched, but I couldn't find those.

1 whole cut-up chicken
1 stick butter
1 28-oz can of tomatoes, drained, and then diced
1 large onion, shredded (i.e. chopped finely in food processor)
2 tsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. salt
1/2 tsp. saffron (*see below)
2 tsp. cinnamon
3 Tbsp. honey
1/4 c. blanched almonds
1 Tbsp. oil

*My understanding is that in Morocco saffron often comes in a packet, mixed with marigold flowers for color. My substitution for this was one packet of Sazon Goya con Azafran + a pinch of real saffron.

Melt the butter in a heavy pot (I use a Le Creuset enameled cast iron pot). Brown the chicken for a couple minutes on each side to add some flavor. Honestly, I remove the skin before I do this because neither of us likes to eat jiggly chicken skin.

Add the diced tomatoes. You can use fresh, but they are supposed to be peeled and seeded, and seriously, who has the time? Stir in the shredded onion, pepper, and salt, and bring just to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, for 45-60 minutes or until the chicken is fall-off-the-bone tender. Stir occasionally.

Remove the chicken pieces and set aside. Increase the heat and cook off much of the remaining liquid until the butter and schmaltz rises to the top and the tomato sauce is thickened. Add the honey and cinnamon and simmer a few more minutes to combine the flavors. Salt to taste.

At this point I removed the chicken from the bone and added it back to the pot, but the original recipe says to put the whole chicken pieces back in before you add the honey and cinnamon. I think it's easier to eat with the chicken off the bone.

Top with some blanched almonds that have been lightly toasted in oil. Serve over fluffy, buttery couscous.

1 comment:

The Middle Child said...

Yes, in most of the Arabic-language Moroccan recipes I have, they call for either "coloring saffron" meaning safflower leaves or for flavorful saffron, i.e. actual saffron. They will sometimes call for both.

Also, removing skins and seeds is standard prep for tomatoes in any Moroccan recipe. Aren't you glad you're not a housewife doing that to 11 pounds of tomatoes with a dull paring knife?