Tagine and the Pantry of Doom
No, this isn’t the latest installment in the Indiana Jones series. But it is a story packed with almost as much peril, danger, and excitement. Seriously, my pantry is a scary, overstuffed place. You take your life into your own hands any time you try to extricate something from there. And I’m not entirely convinced that the Lost Ark isn’t hidden in a dark corner of the top shelf. But I digress…
My goal this week is to use up stuff that’s already in the house, and not go shopping–at all. So far, it’s Wednesday and I’m doing pretty good. Last night’s installment of Pantry Roulette came up Moroccan. I had chicken thighs in the freezer, a can of beans in the auxiliary pantry in the basement, and a ton of spices and random ingredients I bought because they looked interesting.
The end result: A crock pot chicken tagine that sounds like it would be weird, but was wonderful in a way that was unexpected. Really hearty, earthy, flavorful, and satisfying.
Don’t be put off by the list of ingredients–dried apricots and olives seem weird in the same dish, but you really can’t pick out the unique flavor of either. The apricots pretty much dissolved into the stew (and that’s really what a tagine is, btw), giving it a background sweetness. The olives were easy to recognize visually, but they sacrificed their brininess to the cause.
And yes, it’s a long list of spices. But you don’t have to follow it exactly if you don’t have all of them or you don’t like a couple. Mix and match them. Add something different (cumin, clove, or allspice would also be wonderful). Use a different kind of bean. Add carrots, if you have them. Don’t be intimidated–this recipe is endlessly flexible.
As a side note, I entered this recipe in the BSI challenge for chiles–hey, it’s got Harissa, and that’s mostly chiles.
Apricot and Olive Chicken Tagine
1 tbsp cinnamon
2 tsps paprika (I used smoked paprika, but any kind would work)
1-2 tsps ground cardamom (I used closer to 1 tbsp, but I love cardamom)
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp turmeric (this is primarily for color, so feel free to leave it out)
2 tbsp tomato paste (I used sundried tomato paste, because that’s what I could grab without causing a cave in)
2 tbsp chopped garlic
1.5 cups of red wine, divided
1-2 tbsp Harissa (this is a North African chili paste; you can swap in chili powder, dried chiles, chipotles, or any kind of chili paste or hot sauce you like)
1 tbsp honey
1 lg onion, rough chopped
1-2 lbs of skinless, boneless chicken thighs (I used them frozen, chiseled from their package)
1-2 cups dried apricots, halved
3/4 cup mixed olives (I used a Mediterranean blend, with pits; any kind of briny olives will work here; or you could leave them out and add a couple of tbsps of vinegar)
1 can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (Chickpeas would be more authentic, but I couldn’t find them in my pantry pit of despair)
1-2 small preserved lemons (or use the zest from 1 lemon)
1 cup of chicken broth
S&P to taste
1/4 cup pistachios (optional)
- In a small bowl, mix together whatever spices you’re using, along with the tomato paste, the Harissa (or other chile-based product), the garlic, the honey, and 1/2 cup of red wine. Set this aside.
- Lay the onions in the crock pot, and top with the frozen chicken (or thawed, if you’re better at planning ahead than I am).
- Spread the spice paste from Step 1 over the chicken.
- Dump in (in no particular order) the olives, beans, apricots, and preserved lemons (or lemon zest).
- Pour the remaining red wine and the chicken broth around the chicken. You want to avoid washing off the spice paste.
- Slap a lid on the crock pot, and cook on Low for 7-8 hours, or on High for 4-5 hours.
- Serve over couscous or rice. Top with the pistachios, if you found some in the pantry and felt like shelling them.