Ode to Morocco

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Here we go, my first of many ode’s to one of my favorite countries, Morocco.  I have traveled to Morocco twice and hope to go many times more.  But in the interim I try to recreate the flavors I tasted during my travels.

Most of you have probably heard of Marrakesh, Casablanca, Fes, and perhaps Tangier but have you heard or been to Essaouira?  I was lucky enough to visit this seaside city and fell in love with not only the people who live there but the food as well.  The lovely thing about alot of North African foods is they are naturally gluten free, hallelujah!!

My friend and I were befriended by a teenage boy while wandering the souk in Essaouira and over a few days he would take us around the old part of the city and even invited us to his house where his mother kindly prepared chicken tagine for us.

There are different versions of said dish, certain variables include almonds, preserved lemons, garbanzo beans,etc.  I have made chicken with preserved lemons & spanish almonds otherwise known as Marcona almonds which come from the Andalucia and Catalonia areas of Spain (Andalucia is very close to Morocco).
A great winter tagine is made with lamb and figs, of course I will be posting this recipe with photos when I make it.   A very rich in flavor tagine that is quite hearty and great for a Sunday dinner.

I digress, back to the recipe.  Don’t be daunted by the fact you are making this in a tagine.  Tagines are very user friendly and beautiful at that.  I have purchased tagines not only from Morocco directly but my latest purchase was from Williams Sonoma…and it is lovely.  Just make sure when you buy a tagine it is certified that no lead paint has been used.  Clay or ceramic tagines are fine, just double check from the manufacturer/distributor they are safe for human use.

OK OK, the recipe, this is a recipe I found on Food Network, courtesy of Bobby Flay:

Prep Time:
5 min
Inactive Prep Time:
hr min
Cook Time:
45 min
Level:
Intermediate
Serves:
4 servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoons canola oil
8 chicken thighs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon ras al-hanut*
Large pinch saffron, soaked in 1/4 cup warm water
1 cinnamon stick
1 1/2 cups canned diced tomatoes, drained (15-ounce can)
1 1/2 cups canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained (15-ounce can)
3/4 cup dried apricots, sliced into half moons

Chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
Chopped fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish
*Cook’s Note: Ras al-hanut is a mixture of many different spices used in Moroccan
cooking. It is available at spice markets or online.

Directions

Preheat
oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat canola oil in a large Dutch oven or a tagine over high heat. Season chicken with
salt and pepper on both sides and place in the hot pan, skin side down, in batches if
needed; cook until golden brown. Turn the thighs over and cook for 2 minutes longer.
Remove chicken to a plate.

Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the oil from the pan then add the olive oil and heat
over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until soft. Add the garlic and cook for 30
seconds. Add the ras al-hanut and cook another 30 seconds. Add the saffron with the
soaking liquid, cinnamon stick, tomatoes, chickpeas, and apricots and bring to a
simmer. Nestle the chicken into the mixture and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook on
the stovetop or in the oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until the chicken is tender. Do
not remove the lid to check on the chicken until this time. Garnish each serving with a dollop of Harissa Sauce, parsley and cilantro.

Ingredients

Harissa
Sauce:

Directions

1/2 cup creme fraiche
1 tablespoon harissa*
Salt

*Cook’s Note: Harissa is a fiery paste of chiles, garlic, and spices. It is available
at specialty markets.

Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl and let stand at least 30 minutes in
the refrigerator before serving.

BEFORE:

Just placed in the oven ready for cooking!

AFTER:

Yum!! Finished!
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