Tajine dinners are one of my finest memories of my trip to France with Edward. We went in the Spring and traveled for almost 4 weeks – first in London visiting friends and then in France. We hopped from city to city but one of our favorites stops was in Grenoble. Our vintage hotel had a balcony with a view of the Alps. We were walking distance from the city market. And the Moroccan food there was absolutely delicious. I had fallen in love with tajines on a previous visit to France, but it was Edward’s first time. That dinner was one of my favorite memories of our trip, combining three loves - my love for France, good food, and my husband.
You can find good Moroccan food almost anywhere in France in my experience and since our trip almost *gasp* two years ago, I have not been able to find a Moroccan place anywhere near Charlottesville that serves tajines. Finally, I decided I would have to buckle down and learn how to make it myself.
What’s a tajine?
Well, I will tell you. It’s a large dish, usually made out of enameled clay or cast iron, with a tent shaped lid. It’s a slow cooker designed for the stove top and keeps food moist and juicy as it cooks.
Kitchen Kapers, sent me one. A gorgeous yellow cast iron tajine made by the exquisite French company Le Creuset. I had read reviews on other cooking websites, but was warned that the clay version needed time to soak and several reviews mentioned that their dishes came damaged or even broken.
It arrived quickly and safely, and as soon as it arrived I started planning my fabulous tajine dinner. I have to say that I was a little nervous about it – would my own cooking live up to all my wonderful memories of dinners in France?
I decided on a savory chicken dish to start out – with lemon and olives cooked in the tajine and then piled over couscous. We had Dr. Dolly and her family over to celebrate the arrival of the tajine in our house. It. was. wonderful!
Chicken cooked perfectly. It pulled apart beautifully. Lemons so tender, you could cut into them like a fork on dense chocolate cake. The size of the dish was ideal, too – we fed 5 people without a problem, though we did gorge ourselves a little – no leftovers!
Just last week I tried another recipe. This time a sweeter dish with almonds, honey, cinnamon and apricots. WOW! If I had a glass of wine and some music on I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference between my French experience and my home one. Edward raved about it from the moment he got home from work and smelled the spices in the air to bedtime as he crawled into bed full and happy. I’ve included the most recent recipe below. Enjoy!
Chicken Tajine with Apricots and Almonds
yield: Makes 4 servings
active time: 30 min
total time: 1 1/2 hr
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 1 (3-lb) chicken, cut into 6 pieces, wings and backbone discarded
- 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 cup water or broth
- 2 tablespoons mild honey
- 1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
- 1/2 cup dried Turkish apricots, separated into halves
- 1/3 cup slivered almonds
- Special equipment: a 10- to 12-inch tagine or heavy skillet; kitchen string
preparation: Stir together ground cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, pepper and salt in a large bowl. Add chicken and turn to coat well. Heat butter in base of tagine (or in skillet), uncovered, over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then brown half of chicken, skin sides down, turning over once, 8 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Brown remaining chicken in same manner, adding any spice mixture left in bowl. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Return chicken to the tajine to finish cooking.
While chicken cooks, bring honey, water or broth, cinnamon stick, and apricots to a boil in a 1- to 2-quart heavy saucepan, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until apricots are very tender (add more water if necessary). Once apricots are tender, simmer until liquid is reduced to a glaze, 10 to 15 minutes. Place the apricots and glaze as well as the slivered almonds into the tajine with the chicken. Discard cinnamon stick. Finish cooking chicken and apricots together. Serve with couscous.
Note: I used 2 lbs of boneless skinless dark meat, and a package of wings as well. This meant less time spent cutting chicken.
You can find a 2-quart cast iron moroccan tagine by Le Creuset for the special mom in your life (or yourself) from Kitchen Kapers–an online store (with over 7 brick and mortar locations) that inspires homemade fun for $159.99, a $55 savings from retail prices listed on other sites.
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