Chicken Tagine with Apricots & Caramelized Walnuts

chicken-tagine

Boy oh boy. This is one of those recipes that I know for sure I’m going to make again and again. In a word… di-vine. Succulent chicken, along with honeyed apricots and crunchy toffee walnuts with just a hint of orange blossom water – it’s mouth-watering just thinking about it.

I’m a huge fan of tagines, having tried the Lamb, Orange & Prune Tagine previously. The incredible flavours you get from cooking meats, fruits and spices together slowly is really out of this world. You don’t need a fancy tagine dish either  – a sturdy based fry-pan (skillet) or a bench-top multi-cooker, like I have, will do nicely.

I found this lovely recipe from Jeff Koehler at Fine Cooking.com. I made very few changes to it other than swap the ginger powder for fresh ginger and use chicken breasts instead of bone-in chicken (bones in my dinner annoy me!). And, when the stew was ready, I removed the chicken, added in some flour, and transformed the juices into a delicious gravy (if you also find the juices don’t thicken, I’ve made notes at the bottom of the post).

A superb meal which is definitely worth the effort. Enjoy.

chicken-tagine


Chicken Tagine with Apricots and Caramelized Walnuts

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 generous pinch (about 20) saffron threads (use a pinch of turmeric instead if you don’t have saffron)
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 Tbsp chopped fresh coriander (cilantro), divided
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger (or powder)
  • 1/4 tsp salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 bone-in chicken drumsticks and 4 bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed and excess fat trimmed (I used 8 chicken breasts instead)
  • 3 medium yellow or red onions, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces, divided
  • 5 oz. (3/4 cup) dried apricots (whole or chopped)
  • 1/4 cup honey, divided
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • A few drops of orange blossom water (optional)
  • About 3 oz. (2/3 cup) walnut halves

Method:

  1. In an small fry-pan (skillet), toast the saffron over medium heat, shaking the pan often, until a shade darker, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl, let cool, and then, using the back of a wooden spoon, crush the threads to release their flavour.
  2. Add the garlic, parsley, 1 Tbsp of the cilantro, the ginger, 1/4 tsp salt, and a few grinds of pepper; stir to combine. Add the oil and 2 Tbsp water and stir until combined.
  3. One by one, add the chicken pieces to the marinade, turning to coat each one before adding the next. Cover and refrigerate, turning the pieces once or twice, for 30 minutes.
  4. Scatter the onions over the bottom of an 11- to 12-inch tagine (or large, deep fry-pan). Arrange the chicken in a single layer on top and drizzle over any remaining marinade. Dot with 1 Tbsp of the butter, then put over medium heat and cook, turning the chicken occasionally, until the onions are translucent, about 15 minutes.
  5. Add 1/4 cup water and then cover with the lid, allowing a small air vent for steam. Turn the heat down to low and gently simmer, turning the chicken from time to time, until cooked through and tender, about 45 minutes. Add a little more water to the mixture if it becomes too dry.
  6. Meanwhile, put the apricots, 2 Tbsp of the honey, the cinnamon stick, a few drops of orange blossom water, if using, and 3/4 cup water in a 2-quart saucepan. Bring to a simmer, then turn the heat down and simmer gently until the apricots are tender and the liquid has reduced to about 2 Tbsp of syrup, 10 to 15 minutes. If it seems to be drying out, add a bit more water as needed. Remove from the heat and let cool. Discard the cinnamon stick.
  7. Melt the remaining 1 Tbsp butter in an 8-inch non-stick fry-pan over medium-low heat. Add the remaining 2 Tbsp honey and the walnuts and cook, constantly and slowly turning the walnuts in the honey, until they have a light, chewy coating, 4 to 5 minutes (I took the colour further to get a dark caramel). Transfer to a plate, spread into a single layer, and let cool. When cool, separate any walnuts that are stuck together.
  8. When the chicken is done, arrange the apricots around the chicken, drizzle with the apricot syrup, and add more water if needed; cook the tagine, partially covered, over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes more. (*Note: if the juices haven’t thickened, follow my tip below). Season to taste with salt and pepper, scatter the walnuts and the remaining 2 Tbsp coriander over the stew, and serve with rice or couscous. As it’s a sweet dish, I’d recommend you also serve it with a citrus salad.

Tip: I found that there was quite a lot of watery juice still, so I took out the chicken, added about a tablespoon of flour to the juice, raised the heat, and stirred until it resembled a thick gravy (about a minute). Then I added the chicken and apricots/syrup and cooked for an extra few minutes as per the recipe.


 Food Photography Info: Canon 550D (EOS Rebel T2i); Canon 50mm 1.8 lens / Natural lighting

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