Thursday, August 30, 2012

Moroccan Inpired Chicken Stew

Our tiny little town is finally getting a sushi place soon, and we have surprisingly good Mexican food available, but beyond that we're pretty much a college town pool of (heavily Americanized) Chinese & pizza. There certainly isn't any African food nearby, even in the neighboring "big" city, so we have to make it ourselves. Moroccan and Ethiopian cuisines are two of my favorites. Now that it's no longer available down the street or around the corner from me, you'll probably be seeing more of it here. The nice thing about each of those regions is that there are some amazing tasting foods that can also be quite healthy-- no real adjustment needed.

I didn't bust out the tagine just yet, but I can sense that will happen soon after the temperatures drop a little lower. This recipe isn't exactly authentic, but it definitely has some Moroccan roots and flavor profiles. The warm spices and rich sauce pair well with a bed of couscous. I used chicken thighs and legs, but you could use any meat that braises well or bump up the veggies and keep it vegetarian. Root vegetables work especially well. If using meat, you want enough connective tissue to break down and keep it from drying out. I left  the bones in, but removed most of the skin to take the fat content down. The sweet/savory combination is more traditional, but I know some don't really enjoy it. If you're one of them, leaving out the honey and dried fruit will still make for a tasty dish.

Moroccan-Inspired Chicken Stew

  • 1 Tbl. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped (I keep the pieces pretty large for this dish, but you can chop more finely if you don't enjoy directly tasting onions)
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped (I used white because it's what I had- you can use whichever color you prefer)
  • 6 chicken thighs or legs (or 3 of each), bone-in, skin removed
  • 2 c. cooked (or canned) chickpeas or other hardy beans, drained
  • 2 c. chopped tomatoes (paste tomatoes, if you've got them) or 1 large can w/ juices
  • 2 c. chicken stock (low sodium, if possible)
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ginger
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds (if using powder, 1/2 tsp.)
  • 1 pinch cayenne
  • agave nectar or honey to taste (a couple drops of liquid stevia would work if you want less sugar)
  • 1/2 c. dried fruit, roughly chopped (apricots are pretty traditional, but I don't really like them, so usually use prunes, a.k.a. dried plums, or raisins)
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • toasted almond slivers or sunflower seeds for garnish (optional)
Note: As you move along this recipe, season conservatively, as the sauce will cook down and flavors will become concentrated. You can adjust seasonings when it's reached the desired consistency.

1) In a large dutch oven (non-reactive), heat on medium-high heat and add oil. Add onions when the oil is hot.
2) Sautee onions until just glossy and add peppers.
3) Dry chicken with a paper towel. When peppers begin to soften, push the peppers and onion to the sides of the pot and add chicken in a single layer. Sear on each side for a minute or two, until browned.
4) Add tomato juice and chicken stock to deglaze the pot, making sure to get all of the brown bits on the bottom.
5) Add beans, prunes, cinnamon, ginger and cumin.
6) Simmer on low for approx. 30-45 minutes, until thickened.
7) Once the tomato juice and stock have cooked down, adjust seasonings, including salt and pepper, to taste and add honey/agave. Start with a tablespoon or so of sweetener and go from there.
8) Serve over couscous or quinoa and garnish with almonds or toasted (shelled) sunflower seeds (for those who are nut-free, like I am).


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