We eat a lot of chicken. I mean, a LOT. We probably have chicken 3 nights a week on average. It’s relatively affordable for an animal protein, organic humanely raised varieties are easy to find in my area, it’s versatile, and cooks fairly quickly. But still, we do fall into ruts with how we prepare it. I went through a phase of roasting whole chickens with lemon and thyme. Then in the colder weather I moved on to the luscious Chicken Paprikesh phase (recipe here), and then I switched up to chicken thighs, baked with olives. herbes de provence, and lemon juice. And they are all so delicious! But sometimes you need to shake it up a little bit, get some new flavors going, wake those taste buds up again, and try something new.
This is that story.
We are lucky to have met a fabulous couple here in our town, who quickly went from strangers at our local to pub to dear friends. And in my world, being friends means cooking and eating together. Over the last 20 months we’ve shared oyster roasts, Super Bowl parties, big Holiday meals, casual impromptu suppers, and special occasion dinners. Today’s recipe came from a Sunday dinner that was somewhere in between impromptu and planned. The evening was in that grey area where you’ve decided to get together, but don’t have anything specific in mind other than “come over around 6, we’ll have some wine and make some food.” You know those nights are usually the best.
We showed up armed with a few bottles of wine, and a small selection of cheeses to nibble during dinner prep/cocktail hour. Little did we know that our friend Lisa had decided to try out a new-to-her recipe for a Moroccan Chicken dish. Like all real cooks, Lisa was using the recipe as a loose guide and adding her own flair to the dish, and the kitchen was redolent with exotic, spicy aromas.
An hour or so later we all sat down at the table and devoured that pan of goodness. There was not a speck left. What had been a nearly overflowing pot of chicken, apricots, raisins, chickpeas, pine nuts, and a velvety sauce, was now an empty vessel surrounded by 4 delighted, full, wine-glowing, people.
Since that evening she and I have independently and collaboratively re-made that recipe many times. And every time it’s a little bit different. By now it’s probably not very similar to the original inspiration at all. It’s may not even be terribly Moroccan anymore. But I still call it Moroccan Chicken. This is my version of her version of a recipe she found in some book in her collection, that she may or may not even own anymore. Many thanks to my friends Lisa and Greg for that marvelous evening.
Maybe Moroccan Chicken
1 Whole cut-up chicken with skin and bones intact, or Chicken Thighs (2 per person)
1 medium white or red onion, diced small
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 can of Garbanzo Beans/Chick Peas- drained
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup dried apricots, diced
1/2 green olives
1/2 kalamata or niçoise olives
1 quart good quality chicken stock (or homemade)
2 Lemons, cut into eighths
*** Optional: 1/8 cup Pine Nuts
Ground Cinnamon or 2 cinnamon sticks
Ground All spice
Ground Black Pepper TT
Sea Salt TT
Olive oil or butter
Working in batches in a heavy bottomed pan (skillet, dutch oven etc), brown the chicken in a little olive oil/butter until the skin is crispy. As the chicken is removed from the pan, place on a plate to catch any juices. Once all of the chicken has been browned, cover and keep warm.
In the same pan sauté the onion and garlic in the chicken fat/olive oil, until soft and slightly browned. When the onion/garlic mixture is ready add in your spices and allow them to toast slightly to intensify their flavors. I used very loose measurements starting with approximately 1 tsp of each spice (except the Salt and Pepper) and then increasing/adjusting as needed. Spice strengths vary and age can greatly lessen the flavors…so use your nose and your own tastes as a guide.
Once the spices have been incorporated, add in your chickpeas, and stir to coat with the spices and fat. Now add in the olives, lemons, raisins and apricots. Stir it all together. Nestle your chicken into the pan and pour any juices from the plate into the pan. Add the stock to just cover the whole concoction. Bring to a simmer and then cover. At this point you can either continue to cook this on the stove top, or move it to a 375 F oven. Either way, allow this braise for an hour or so. The chicken should be falling off of the bone when it’s finished. Check occasionally and add more stock as needed to prevent the dish from drying out. Those raisins and apricots will absorb quite a bit of liquid.
Once the chicken is cooked through, if you’d like the sauce a bit thicker remove the chicken to a platter (cover and keep warm) and then reduce the sauce by simmering on the stove top.
Once the sauce has reached your desired consistency, either return the chicken to the pan and serve from there or serve the chicken and sauce separately, with each diner taking their desired portion.
*** if using pine nuts, sprinkle them over the finished dish.
This recipe can be served with rice, orzo, couscous, or as we did with Curry roasted cauliflower.
It pairs well with a lighter red (Evolution Red blend, in our case) or a crisp white to contrast the fat and spices.
Put your own spin on this, and make it your way!
Thank you for reading today…please let me know if you make this and what you think of it.