Braising and stewing…cooking techniques that warm the house and the soul during these frigid winter months. I absolutely adore this dish! The seasonings are all at once earthy, spicy and sweet. It is the most inspiring and delicious combination for your taste buds. I’m teaching students to make it in a small group cooking class today and I hope they love it as much as I do.
I originally learned to make this Moroccan tajine in culinary school. My fellow students and I were all blown away when we tasted it at the end of class. This dish is a great example of the impact salt and pepper can have on seasonings and flavor. Sprinkling salt and pepper on the chicken before you brown it is key but definitely not enough to bring out all of the notes in the dish after you add so much water. At the end of the braise, you can keep adding salt and pepper a little bit at a time and taste to see how much they both bring out the flavors of the other spices in the dish. It’s pretty incredible.
A lot of times people wonder why things don’t taste great. It’s often simply a matter of adding enough salt and pepper to bring out the flavors. I plan to go through this with my students. Seasoning is everything. I hope you will try this dish and tell me how you think adding salt and pepper at the end impacts the flavor notes for you as well.
- Canola or olive oil for browning chicken, as needed
- 2 lbs chicken thighs, bone in, skin on
- 1 Spanish Onion, peeled and sliced
- 1 lg pinch saffron
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp turmeric
- ½ tsp cumin
- 1 tsp coriander
- ⅛ tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 T honey
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 zucchini, diced
- 1 yellow squash, diced
- ¼ cup Prunes, chopped
- ¼ cup apricots, chopped
- 1 can chickpeas, rinsed
- 3 sprigs fresh cilantro, plus additional chopped for garnish (optional)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Heat oil in a large dutch oven or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and brown well on all sides, in batches. Remove chicken to a side dish.
- Sauté onion until slightly translucent and limp, about 3-4 minutes. Add the saffron, ginger, tumeric, cumin, coriander and cayenne pepper and cook briefly.
- Add 6 cups of water, honey and cinnamon stick and bring to a boil.
- Add in chicken, reduce to summering and allow to cook for about 15 minutes before adding in the zucchini, yellow squash, prunes, apricots and gigantes or chickpeas.
- Continue simmering for about 30-40 minutes until chicken and vegetables are cooked through and tender.
- Add cilantro to the pot, raise heat to high and boil for about 10 minutes, reducing the sauce to a slightly thicker consistency (about ⅓ down).Taste and adjust seasoning generously with salt and pepper.
- Serve on a bed of rice or couscous and garnish with additional cilantro, if desired.