Monday, February 2, 2009

CSA week nine - Chicken tagine with olives and preserved lemons

and also large bunches of parsley and cilantro.

This is a recipe from North African Cooking by Hilaire Walden. It's not the one I mentioned on Saturday, but this one uses more parsley and cilantro than that one plus some other interesting flavors so I thought I'd give it a try. I've modified it a bit and probably screwed it up since I couldn't get the right sorts of olives or preserved lemons. Well, that's the way of things; I'll just have to hope for the best.

2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves
3/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 large pinch saffron threads, crushed
salt and pepper

1 chicken weighing about 3 1/2 pounds (Mine was a bit bigger so I was generous on all the spices and used a large onion.)
3 cups chicken broth or water

1/2 cup greeny-brown Moroccan olives, rinsed or kalamata olives, roughly chopped
1 large bunch of cilantro, finely chopped (I used about half my share. There's large and then there's large.)
1 large bunch of parsley, finely chopped
1 preserved lemon in salt (The lemons I found were pickled, but so are the olives so I figure I'm probably OK. They were also kind of small so I used two.), chopped

0. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a dutch oven just big enough to fit the chicken. Add onions and fry until golden brown.

2. Meanwhile, crush garlic in a mortar with a pinch of salt. Work in the ginger, cinnamon, saffron and a bit of pepper. Add to onions and cook until fragrant. Remove to a bowl.

3. Let the spice mix cool a bit and then mash it up into a smoother paste.
Or just run it through the food processor. Spread it all over the chicken including in the body cavity.

4. Put chicken in the dutch oven (which you're glad you used because you didn't lose all the flavor from the spice mix you couldn't entirely scrape out) and add broth. Bring to a simmer and cover.

The original recipe goes on to simmer on the stovetop for 1 1/4 hours, but instead I put it into the oven for omni-directional heat. 350 works for stews but wanted to keep the sauce simmering here so I want a little higher temperature. Technically that means this is a braise not a tagine, I think. The recipe called for flipping the chicken a few times which still seemed like a good idea so I went ahead and did that.

I'm not sure about the timing since I started at 350, changed my mind, tried 375 and then 400. I just cooked until my probe thermometer got a reading of 165 degrees. I've been having trouble getting reliable readings so the chicken ended up a bit overcooked, but the sauce kept it from drying out so it wasn't a disaster.

5. When the thermometer reaches 160 degrees add the chopped olives, lemon, cilantro and parsley, turn the oven down to 350 degrees and cook for 15 minutes more.

6. When the chicken is done, remove it to a cutting board to cool and put the sauce on the stove to cook down if it looks like it needs it. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning now. When the chicken is cool enough to work with, portion it out and serve with the sauce. If you can figure how to skim the chicken fat from the sauce, you probably should.

I also had a side dish: Fried peppers with capers and garlic

2 Tablespoons olive oil
3/4 pound red peppers, cut into strips
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 Tablespoon salt-packed capers (don't substitute the pickled capers; the flavors are quite different)
1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar (go ahead and substitute plain white vinegar)
salt and pepper

1. Heat the oil on high heat in a cast iron pan until nearly smoking. Add the peppers. Fry, stirring frequently but not constantly, until they've charred around the edges.

2. Add the capers and garlic. Cook until they sizzle and the garlic starts to brown.

3. Stir in the vinegar which will evaporate too fast to do any real damage to the seasoning on your cast iron pan. Still, you'll want to clean the pan promptly after dinner.

4. Serve hot as a side dish or cold as a salad.

And I made couscous too.

I'm fairly happy with how the tagine turned out. There's a lot of good flavor in the sauce, but you can tell the right olives and lemon would match with the herbs and spices a bit better. As usual when I neglect to brine the chicken is flavorful on the outside but the actual meat is kind of bland. Even this free-range, organic blah-blah-blah chicken doesn't have a whole lot of flavor. Not compared to olives and preserved lemons, anyway. I suppose the overcooking was no help here either. But still, not bad and the sauce is quite nice with the couscous.

The peppers are sweet, salty and tangy. Very different from the chicken and a nice accompaniment. The recipe doesn't actually specify sweet bell peppers so I wonder how it would be using a pepper with a little heat.

Now I could really go for some baclava for dessert.


kat said...

Sounds like you did a lot better with your tagine then we did with ours

LaDivaCucina said...

Hey Bill, this sounds great. I make my own preserved lemons they are really easy. Want the recipe? Email me!

I made your black sapote bars but they turned out a bit dry. I wonder what I did wrong? I also added the coconut but found it didn't add much flavor, might add more next time. I also added 1 T of cocoa powder to the black sapote, very nice.

billjac said...

Oh, I know preserved lemons are easy but I started preparing ingredients for every cuisine I cook once a month I'd fill up my refrigerator and never have time to actually cook anything. And I figured since I had an Arab grocery nearby I could always pick up what I needed; I didn't realize until I actually went in that their selection was so poor.

As for the black sapote bars, was the problem in the filling or the pastry? I'd guess the problem was either in the ripeness of the sapote or the coconut which may have not been as good an idea as it sounded.

Karen said...

Bill, you need a Fat Separator, aka a Gravy Fat Separator - it's a pitcher with the spout coming out near the bottom. Skimming with a bulb baster or spoon can work, or my mother-in-law lays down slices of soft bread to soak up the surface fat (on sauces thick enough to support that), but these things are the best. Pour in the sauce or gravy, let sit a while (put in the freezer for 10 minutes to speed up the separation), and carefully pour the good stuff out from the bottom. You might have to strain any floating herbs that you want to keep out of the fat before discarding it.

Those peppers look/sound great - where do you get salt-packed capers? Never heard of 'em.

For the Black Sapotes, this Persimmon Pudding Cake ( turned out really well. I reduced the butter to 5T and used 3 eggs + 1 egg white to try to lighten it up a bit, and reduced the cinnamon and left out the nutmeg so as not to overpower the more delicate pear-like flavor of the sapotes. Served with vanilla ice cream and cut up strawberries from the box - very nice dessert. Baking removes that sort of scary sheen that the sapote has by itself.

billjac said...

I scraped off the congealed fat with a spoon this morning. I know should have a fat separator and a pile more kitchen gadgets too but I need one so rarely that I've resisted making the investment.

You can usually find salt-packed capers right next to the other sort at larger or more upscale supermarkets. They have a light almost-floral flavor that's completely overwhelmed by the brine in the pickled version.

Substituting sapote into a persimmon recipe is a pretty clever idea. Very different flavors, but similar textures. Some adjustment of the spices will be necessary most times, but it opens up a lot of interesting possibilities.

Karen said...

I looked into persimmon recipes because I seem to recall that the sapotes are a persimmon relative. I didn't know anything about persimmons - bought one at the store and sliced into it and it was mouth-burning awful!!! Turns out there are the Japanese ones (Hachiya), which have to be mushy ripe to be edible, and the American 'natives' (??? named Fuyu) which can be sliced like an apple. I'm guessing recipes for that kind wouldn't work so well with sapote!

LaDivaCucina said...

Hello darling. The bars TASTE GREAT and the filling is divine (kind of reminded me of thumbprint cookies you make at Christmas) but the dough was dry and a bit too crumbly. Did I not put in enough butter? Perhaps, I didn't measure as accurately as I should have. Maybe the addition of the coconut just dried it out? Don't know. I did use plain old coconut from the Asian grocery instead of the sickly sweet stuff from the grocery.

I totally understand about room in the fridge and the cupboards, no more gadgets! I'll tell you what, I'll trade you some preserved lemons if you trade me some kaffir lime leaves....although I might be waiting a while for those, eh?!

billjac said...

The dough is dependent on the massive amounts of butter. If you used good judgment, you didn't put in enough. Also, it's supposed to be a little bit dry so you can serve it with a lovely beverage.

It'll be a while before I get any limes but I hope my tree can spare some leaves before too very long. I'll keep you apprised.