This is a story about the time when I finally learned to cook for my in-laws.
It shouldn’t be so hard, really. I love to cook. I do it pretty much every day. I have a food blog, for heaven’s sake. But in the past, cooking for the in-laws has proven more than I could handle. Don’t believe me? Just ask my father-in-law. Ask him about the time I bought frozen peas – the man loves peas – and then forgot them in the freezer. Ask him about the time I toiled over an apple pie (his favorite) only to realize that I’d ruined it with too much orange zest. Just don’t mention all those times I’ve made chicken. A different kind, every time, and never worth making again.
This weekend, I nearly repeated my past mistakes. Thursday evening, I had maple parsnip cake in the oven, and smoky chiles in a blender along with all the ingredients for mole poblano. I blended it smooth, dunked my finger in for a taste, and….shit! That stuff was spicy. Of course, I loved it. It burned, a long, slow burn that lingers on your tongue and builds with each bite. But people, it was seriously hot. That’s when I had the honest moment: between you, me, and the blender of mole, my father-in-law doesn’t do spice.
I’m not sure what I was thinking when I started on that mole recipe, but there I was, 2 hours later, with lots of mole that I really couldn’t serve for Friday night dinner. Instead of plugging forth stubbornly (yea, I just admitted to being stubborn; first step, right?), I piled that mole into a jar, tucked it in the fridge, promised myself top-notch enchiladas later in the week, and went back to square one. Square one, in this case, was an innocent-seeming recipe for chicken with apricots.
I’ve always had a soft spot for tagines. Though this chicken dish is made in a regular pot, it has the flavors and textures of a good chicken tagine. The chicken and apricots were meltingly tender, yielding to the slightest prod of a fork. The liquid – little more than water, spices, and honey – had transformed into a deeply flavorful sauce, which we happily poured over golden-crusted rice (a Persian dish called tahdig, and a story for another time).
When I tweeted a picture of this chicken using instagram, several of you got excited and asked for the recipe. Your wish, my command. Enjoy.
A note about the site: some of you emailed and tweeted me this past week with concerns about the blog. You were searching for granola with tahini, or hamentaschen for Purim, but you got sent to a page that….well, let’s just say it wasn’t promoting food. I’ve got some great folks working hard to make the s-p-a-m go away once and for all. Site’s clean for now – here’s hoping it stays that way. Thanks to all of you for your patience. Now let’s go eat some chicken.
Moroccan Chicken with Apricots
adapted from, sigh, an old Gourmet recipe
Makes 4 servings
The original recipe is called Chicken Tagine with Apricots and Almonds. But it isn’t really a tagine, since you don’t cook it in a tagine. Also: I omitted the (1/3-cup) blanched almonds. Not a big fan of nuts in saucy things. Chicken in saucy things, on the other hand, is delicious. And the apricots – amazing.
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 (3-lb) chicken, cut into 6 pieces, wings and backbone reserved for another use
1 medium red onion, halved, then sliced 1/4 inch thick
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5 sprigs fresh cilantro, chopped
5 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons mild honey
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
1/2 cup dried Turkish or regular apricots
Stir together ground cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, turmeric, pepper, 1 teaspoon salt, and 3 tablespoons oil in a large bowl. Add chicken and turn to coat well.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot, over moderate heat until hot but not smoking. Brown half of chicken, skin sides down, about 8 minutes. Flip, cook about 3 minutes more, then transfer to a plate. Brown remaining chicken in the same manner, adding any spice mixture left in the bowl.
Add onion and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook uncovered, stirring frequently, until soft, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Add cilantro and parsley to the pot, reserving a handful for serving. Then add water, honey, cinnamon, apricots, chicken, and any juices accumulated on plate. Reduce heat slightly and simmer, covered, 30 minutes.
If you’re serving this for a dinner party and need to start it in advance, feel free to cook it low and slow instead. I’ve cooked it in a 275-degree oven for 1.5 hours. Like I said, meltingly tender.
Serve the chicken over either rice or couscous, topped with parsley and cilantro.