Thursday, January 26, 2012

Moroccan Chicken

My mother's husband made this dish a couple weeks ago and I haven't been able to get it out of my rotation. It's so good and it also works for this silly diet I'm on, even if I have to leave out the goodies like olives, apricots and/or chickpeas.

The original recipe is from Cook's Illustrated, I believe they called it Moroccan Chicken and I always find it pretty humorous to name a dish after an ENTIRE nation. As in, do I think Moroccans call this dish Moroccan chicken? Unlikely. Do Moroccans always make chicken this way when they decide to make chicken for dinner? Probably not. But nonetheless, very tasty.

Below you will find the original recipe, I made it this way and then again with my own tweaks, see my notes after the recipe.

1 1/4 t sweet paprika
1/2 t cumin
1/4 t cayenne
1/4 t ginger
1/4 t coriander
1/4 t cinnamon
3 strips lemon zest (each about 2 inches by 3/4 inch) plus 3 T juice from 1-2 lemons
5 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 chicken, 3.5-4 lbs cut into 8 pieces (4 breasts, 2 thighs, 2 drumsticks, 2 wings), trimmed of fat
1 T olive oil
1 large onion, halved and cut into 1/4 inch slices (about 3 cups)
1 3/4 c. low sodium chix broth
1 T honey
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut crosswise into into 1/2 inch thick coins, very large pieces cut into half-moons, about 2 cups
1 c. Greek cracked green olives, pitted and halved
2 T chopped cilantro leaves

-combine spices, set aside
-mix 1 strip zest and 1 t garlic and mash to a paste, set aside
-season chicken with S&P. Heat oil in dutch oven until smoking, working in batches, brown chicken skin side down until deep golden brown, about 5 minutes. Turn chicken and brown on other side, about 4 minutes. Cool, remove skin and discard all but 1 T fat.
-add onion and 2 remaining strips of zest until onions have browned at edges but retained shape, about 7 minutes. Add rest of garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add spices, stirring constantly about 45 seconds to 1 minute. Stir in broth and honey, scraping bits off bottom of the pot. Add dark meat, reduce heat to medium and simmer 5 minutes.
-add carrots and breasts to pot, arranging chicken in a single layer on top. Cover, reduce heat to medium low and simmer until chicken registers 160 degrees, about 15 minutes.
-transfer chicken to bowl and tent with foil. Add olives to pot, raise heat to med-high and simmer until liquid has thickened slightly and carrots are tender, 4-6 minutes. Add chicken back to pot, add garlic-zest mixture, cilantro and lemon juice. Season with S&P and serve
-as a variation, replace 1 carrot with 1 c. dried apricots, halved and replace olives with 1 can drained and rinsed chickpeas.

First of all, I like spice, I just wanted more! So I doubled all the spice amounts, except for the paprika because I used hot and not sweet. I also just took the zest off of a whole lemon and threw it in the pot, I liked how it tasted cooked down, tender and spicy. I skipped that step with the raw garlic and mashing into a paste because I feel it didn't really add anything, I just put it all in the pot. Less fuss, that's my motto.

I threw out the honey, it didn't seem necessary and I'm not supposed to have any sugar. I didn't miss it at all. I did not do carrots, I did not create a bed upon which to lay the chicken breasts. The article that went with this recipe said they did that to avoid stringy, dry breasts but I found them to be fine if I just cooked everything low and slow. I do think you should turn them during the cooking to ensure that lovely juice gets into every part of the chicken. I also did not add chicken stock, the chicken has bones and they create a lovely stock all on their own.

This is great with olives and apricots, which I sadly am not eating right now but they really are a tasty addition.