Recipe: Chicken (or Veggie) Tajine

13 Oct

There are certainly as many ways of making a tajine (tagine) as there are ways of making Spaghetti Bolognaise, but all boil down to the same delicious result: a fragrant, soul-warming North African stew that is perfect for a crisp autumn day. This version–with just a hint of sweetness from the cinnamon, currants, and honey–is a favorite.

Tajines are named for the two-piece clay pot that they are traditionally cooked in. The pot has a flat bottom with deep sides, and a conical lid. The brightly colored glazed versions are gorgeous. Alas, I don’t have a tajine, so instead prepare this dish in a large, enameled, cast-iron Dutch Oven with a lid. This version is made with chicken, but is very easy to convert to a vegetarian or vegan dish:  substitute garbanzos beans (chickpeas) and veggies for the chicken. I usually add chickpeas anyway since I am quite fond of them, but this time around had a smaller crowd at home so omitted them. I also forgot the carrots, but luckily this dish is very forgiving. Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients–most of them are spices. I put the spices into a small bowl while the onions are cooking, and add them all at once.

Toasted almonds are a must as an accompaniment–they add a nice crunchy texture to the dish; toasted pine nuts would work, too. Serve with couscous.

Chicken Tajine
Serves 8

2-6 tbsp. olive oil
2 large  onions (cut onions in half, julienne, then cut slices in half again)
1 c. shredded carrots
6 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp. sweet paprika
2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. fennel or anise seeds
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
10 whole cloves
2 (14.5-oz.) cans petite diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2 c. chicken or veggie broth
juice from 1 lemon
3 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, fat removed, cut into thirds
1 c. currants
1 (15.5-oz.) can chickpeas, drained
1 tbsp. honey
2 tbsp. butter (or non-hydrogenated buttery spread)
1/2 c. toasted almonds (slivered or sliced), or pine nuts

1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in heavy, large Dutch oven over medium heat. Brown chicken (in batches if necessary); remove from pot.
2. Add onions, carrots, and garlic to pot (plus more olive oil if needed). Cover and cook until onions are soft, about 10 minutes. Add paprika, salt, turmeric, coriander, fennel seeds, black pepper, cumin, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves; stir 1 minute. Add tomatoes, broth, and lemon juice; bring to boil. Put chicken back into pot in a single layer and add currants and chickpeas (if using). Nestle chicken into sauce; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer about 30 minutes. Remove lid. Add honey and butter and simmer about 30 minutes longer, uncovered.
3. Check and adjust seasonings. Before serving, sprinkle with almonds and cilantro. Serve with couscous.

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