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Sweet Chicken Tagine with Apricots and Caramelized Walnuts Recipe

Sweet Chicken Tagine with Apricots and Caramelized Walnuts

Serves 4

by Jeff Koehler from Fine Cooking
Issue 128

This tagine is a perfect example of the sweet chicken tagines of Fez, a glorious blend of sweet and savory, with the apricots’ chewy texture and sweet-tart flavor offsetting the savory saffron, garlic, fresh herbs, and tender chicken. Lightly caramelizing the walnuts in honey gives the dish an added decorative touch and a welcome crunch.

1 generous pinch saffron threads (about 20)
3 medium cloves garlic, minced (1 Tbs.)
1 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp. ground ginger
Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
4 bone-in chicken drumsticks and 4 bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed and excess fat trimmed
3 medium yellow or red onions, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise (5 cups)
2 Tbs. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
5 oz. dried apricots (3/4 cup)
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cinnamon stick
Orange flower water (optional)
2/3 cup walnut halves (about 3 oz.)

In an 8-inch skillet, toast the saffron over medium heat, shaking the pan often, until a shade darker, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl, let cool, and then, using the back of a wooden spoon, crush the threads to release their flavor. Add the garlic, parsley, 1 Tbs. of the cilantro, the ginger, 1/4 tsp. salt, and a few grinds of pepper; stir to combine. Add the oil and 2 Tbs. water and stir until combined. One by one, add the chicken pieces to the marinade, turning to coat each one before adding the next. Cover and refrigerate, turning the pieces once or twice, for 30 minutes.

Scatter the onions over the bottom of an 11- to 12-inch tagine. Arrange the chicken in a snug single layer on top and drizzle over any remaining marinade. Dot with 1 Tbs. of the butter, then put over medium heat and cook, turning the chicken occasionally, until the onions are translucent, about 15 minutes.

Add 1/4 cup water and then cover with the lid, propping a wooden spoon between the base and the lid to keep it from sealing. Turn the heat down to low and gently simmer, nudging the chicken from time to time to prevent sticking and swapping the spoon position halfway through, until cooked through and tender (but not falling off the bone), about 45 minutes. Drizzle in a few spoonfuls of water as necessary during cooking to keep the sauce loose, or remove the lid at the end of cooking to evaporate and thicken the sauce if it’s watery.

Meanwhile, put the apricots, 2 Tbs. of the honey, the cinnamon stick, a few drops of orange flower water, if using, and 3/4 cup water in a 2-quart saucepan. Bring to a simmer, then turn the heat down and simmer gently until the apricots are tender and the liquid has reduced to about 2 Tbs. of syrup, 10 to 15 minutes. If it seems to be drying out, add a bit more water as needed. Remove from the heat and let cool. Discard the cinnamon stick.

Melt the remaining 1 Tbs. butter in an 8-inch nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add the remaining 2 Tbs. honey and the walnuts and cook, constantly and slowly turning the walnuts in the honey, until they have a light, chewy coating, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate, spread into a single layer, and let cool. When cool, separate any walnuts that are stuck together.

When the chicken is done, arrange the apricots around the chicken, drizzle with the apricot syrup, and add more water if needed; cook the tagine, partially covered, over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes more. Season to taste with salt and pepper, scatter the walnuts and the remaining 2 Tbs. cilantro over the stew, and serve.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 760; Fat (g): fat g 39; Fat Calories (kcal): 350; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 10; Protein (g): protein g 55; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 14; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 51; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 12; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 300; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 300; Fiber (g): fiber g 5;

Photo: Scott Phillips

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