At least once a month, I save the day with this recipe. THE recipe. My go-to saviour, so delicious that I even serve it to company in a rush. Friends usually leave with the recipe too. A fake tagine, you might say, ready in 30 minutes or so and bursting with deep flavours despite the short cooking time. Few ingredients but boy! do they shine.
My picky eater’s verdict? Changing. Sometimes he digs in with a great big moan (yes, Junior moans when he likes the food), sometimes he pouts for his faithful PB-no-J. If I let him win, he would eat bread or cereal more often than not. Now that I have a son, I suddenly understand that Seinfeld joke. So, no guarantees here that your picky eater will embrace the final results but the ultra tender chicken is tempting enough to pull mine out of his culinary rut. Worth noting, this curry-flavoured dish is proof that Western children can embrace foreign spices as long as they deliver flavour, not fire.
I did not create this recipe but I have been cooking it for more than 10 years, origins unknown. Did I tweak it, I don’t remember. Maybe I added cilantro at the end, which you can skip if you don’t share my overwhelming passion for it. Enjoy.
You don’t say?
Tagine are berber stews from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, slow cooked over low heat in a terra cotta dish called a tagine, ergo the name. The meat is braised, never fried, since earthenware cannot sustain intense heat. Today’s European-made tagines have a cast iron bottom that lets you sauté meat, bucking tradition. This recipe borrows from both techniques with its fried onion and garlic…but braised meat. How about that.
Quickie chicken and date “tagine”
4 servings (in my family, more like 3 but then, we’re piglets)
• olive oil
• 1 chopped onion
• 1-2 chopped garlic cloves
• 1 lemon
• 1 dozen chicken drumsticks and/or boneless upper thighs, skin removed*
• 1 can (198 ml) chickpeas in their liquid
• 1 L (4 cups) chicken broth
• 5-10 ml (1-2 tsp) mild curry (or Patak’s style paste)
• 1 small handful pitted dates, cut in halves
• chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
• salt and pepper
1. In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Saute onions, then garlic. Be careful not to brown garlic.
2. Meanwhile, remove one end of lemon and thinly slice until you reach the middle. Juice other half and set aside.
3. Add chicken (I never saute skinless chicken, if it can’t caramelize, I’m not interested). Pour in lemon juice. I suspect one could use preserved lemons for this dish, a more traditional ingredient. If you ever try it, tell me how it went?
3. Add chickpeas with their liquid and chicken broth. You want poultry to be covered with liquid, so add water if necessary. Season with curry, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-high and cook 25-30 minutes or until flesh starts falling from bones.
4. Add dates and cook 3-5 minutes. Do not let dates melt and fall apart. Serve garnished with chopped cilantro, with a side of good bread, buttered couscous or rice.
* If removing skin yourself, just slide your hand underneath the skin to loosen it, then use a paper towel to grab the skin and pull it off as if you were pulling a sweater over your head. The “paper towel grab” is also convenient when removing the connective tissue under a side of pork ribs.