This is definitely not the kind of food I grew up with.
This is a far cry from growing up on a farm in the foothills of North Carolina. My mom is an excellent cook and I have always enjoyed her cooking. But, the older I get, the more I appreciate more exotic and spicy foods than what I grew up with. I also think a lot of people stay away from a lot of spices in their cooking because they associate ‘spicy’ with peppers and heat. This couldn’t be farther from the truth with this dish – there are lot of spices, but no peppers of any kind – and it’s definitely not ‘spicy’ hot.
Moroccan dishes are traditionally cooked in a tagine, which is used a lot in North African cooking and is basically a clay pot that allows for braising. While I don’t have a tagine, this still came out perfectly from a heavy bottomed pot. You’ll start by combining the spices together and coating the pieces of chicken well. We like both white and dark meat in my house, so I used both chicken thighs and boneless skinless breast tenders (although I think dark meat lends better flavor to this dish, but to each their own, amiright?).
Once the chicken is well coated, you’ll want to brown it in batches in the pot with some oil – I should also say you should be careful with turmeric. If you don’t already know, turmeric will color every damn thing yellow. Including fingers and clothes. And splatters on the wall from the stove as well. I learned this the hard way from this dish. Now we can’t wait (more than ever) to remodel the kitchen. Sigh.
Anyway, after you initially brown the chicken, remove to a separate plate and add in some chopped onion and garlic. Once this has cooked for a bit, add in the dried apricots, some cilantro, honey, some water and a cinnamon stick (crazy!) and then add the chicken back in as well. You could also add some preserved lemon as well, if you happen to have access to it. (I actually have some, but forgot all about adding it here. My loss, right?)
Once everything is added back in, just let it simmer for about 30 mins to bring all the flavors together. And that’s it! The cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and turmeric combine to send the flavor-level through the roof! They complement the chicken so well, and combined with the onions, apricots and cilantro – results in a savory and delicious dinner that is perfect for company.
Serve over some couscous or rice and show your friends how much more cultured and exotic you are. Enjoy!
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1-½ tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp ground cardamom
- 1 tsp turmeric
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 1-¼ tsp salt
- 3 lbs chicken – skin-on, bone-in works best
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 med onion, cut into 1/4″ chunks
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- Fresh cilantro, chopped
- Fresh parsley, chopped – flat leaf is best
- 1-½ cups water
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 whole cinnamon stick
- ½ cups dried apricots
- Couscous – fresh and steamed, for serving
In a small bowl, stir together ground cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, turmeric, pepper and 1 tsp salt. Toss and coat chicken with spice mixture. (Note: turmeric will stain pretty much everything, so you might consider tongs or gloves).
Heat olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot, over med heat until hot – but not smoking. Brown chicken in batches, skin sides down, about 8 minutes. Flip, cook about 3 minutes more, then transfer to a plate.
Into the same pot, add chopped onion and remaining salt and cook uncovered, stirring frequently, until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, about 3 mins. Add cilantro and parsley to the pot, reserving a handful for serving. Then add water, honey, cinnamon, apricots, chicken, and any chicken juices accumulated on plate. Reduce heat slightly and simmer, covered, 30 minutes.
Serve stew over couscous or your favorite starch.