Moroccan Chicken with Apricots

by rivka on March 6, 2012 · 14 comments

in good for you, main dishes

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.

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1 Molly March 6, 2012

A few weeks back we did a very similar recipe from Recipes for Health by Marthan Shulman. We included the blanched almonds in ours, and there was also the addition of sweet potatoes. The meat was fall-off-the bone tender and the whole pot was devoured within minutes. The spices look pretty similar, although I don’t think we used any fresh parsley or cilantro.

Food for thought.

2 rivka March 8, 2012

Hey Molly – did you like the dish with almonds? I actually thought about adding sweet potatoes or squash, but it was great without. Cooked almonds just aren’t my thing, though. Curious what you thought.

3 Molly March 8, 2012

The almonds were nice. I think they added another layer of flavor, as well as texture, to the dish, especially because everything else was so soft and melty. I’m a sucker for anything almond, so my opinion is probably a little bit biased. I’d heartily encourage you to try the dish again with the sweet potatoes. If you’re not into the nuts then leave them out, but I think you’ll find the tuber addition will make this an even more satisfying dish. We served ours on top of brown basmati rice, but if I had really planned it out, I would have soaked some freekah and cooked it up in the pressure cooker.

4 Cassandra March 6, 2012

Oh, my, this sounds utterly delicious!

5 LiztheChef March 7, 2012

Chicken and apricots, this I have to try. Pretty photos!

6 rachel March 8, 2012

Can’t wait to try this! Also, kudos on mastering the art of tahdig!

7 rivka March 8, 2012

mastering is a bit strong….practice makes perfect, though. at least I’ve conquered my fear of trying to make it!

8 Lisa March 8, 2012

Might you share the maple parsnip cake please? Thanks!

9 rivka March 9, 2012

Sure thing – here’s the link: http://www.ivillage.com/maple-parsnip-cake-maple-meringue-frosting/3-r-321443

Note: the picture in the ivillage post is not a picture of the cake you’ll be making. It’s clearly a layer cake, whereas the parsnip cake is a short, squat, single-layered delight. The frosting in the picture looks sort of like butter-pecan or caramel; the maple meringue is much lighter and fluffier, and utterly delicious.

10 Lauren March 14, 2012

I made this for dinner last night and it was just marvelous. It reminded me of the first time I ever had chicken with apricots while I was living in Paris as a college student some years back. Thank you so much for posting- it was an absolute joy to make.

11 rivka March 16, 2012

So glad you liked it! It’s definitely going in the permanent rotation.

12 ciaochowlinda March 18, 2012

A few months ago I had a similar dish at a Moroccan restaurant in Paris – and have wanted to duplicate it since. Your delicious version is a great springboard for me now to move forward.

13 Ariella April 17, 2012

This looks and tasted delicious! Do you think we can make this in a stainless steel pot? Does that count as a heavy-bottomed pot?

14 rivka April 23, 2012

Hello! The answer, of course, is yes. Stainless steel is totally fine. Also – per your question from Friday night – you can make this dish in a slow cooker. It’s even better if you can brown the chicken first, but it’s great either way.

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