Chicken Tagine with Figs, Apricots, and Honey

I received a tagine for Christmas. A tagine is a conical, round earthenware pot with a lid designed to lock in the moisture and flavors of the food, allowing them to be cooked in a small amount of liquid. The food typically cooked in a tagine is also called tagine – which is an aromatic, spicy stew, often containing fruit. The secret of a succulent tagine is to simmer the meat or vegetables in a seasoned, fragrant liquid over a very low heat, so that the food stays moist and tender. Also, the dried fruit is added when the food is almost cooked, so they don’t turn to mush.

Originally a Berber dish, tagines have evolved as successive waves of Arabs and Ottomans migrated though North Africa.  Traditionally, the earthenware tagine was used over a charcoal fire, which diffused the heat. The conical lid has a hole in the top that lets steam escape, If you are cooking a tagine (the food) in a regular casserole or pan, you need to tip the lid occasionally to let the steam escape.

The cookbook that came with my tagine cautions that an earthenware tagine cannot be used on a gas or electric burner, so it is prudent to cook this tasty dish in a conventional casserole, and then if you have guests serve it in the tagine for impact.  I think it can be used successfully in an oven, although it seems a bit large for that (It’s also a bit large to store in a closet – it is going to have to be a decorative item between cooking.).

I created this chicken tagine from the assorted dried fruit I had in the house. Chicken thighs are a rich enough meat to stand up to the long simmering in an aromatic liquid.  Often, tagines are served on a mound of couscous where the top has been indented and the tagine poured in the center. I ate it with a crusty bread, which is more traditional for an everyday tagine, although I served the very tasty leftovers over rice.

Chicken Tagine with Figs, Apricots and Honey

12 dried figs
8 dried apricots
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
a pinch of saffron threads
2 cinnamon sticks
2 teaspoons ground coriander
8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat, and cut into bite-size pieces
3-4 strips of orange zest, sliced thin (see Hint)
1 Tablespoon honey
sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
¼ cup cilantro leave, chopped

This is one of those dishes where I found it convenient to get everything prepared before I actually started the cooking process.
Clockwise from the mountain of onions and garlic at the bottom, there are the soaked, dried fruit; orange zest strips; a little bowl with the ginger, saffron, coriander and cinnamon sticks; the cut up chicken thighs, and a bowl of cilantro.

Place figs and apricots in a medium bowl, cover with water and set aside to soak for an hour. Drain figs and apricots, saving soaking water. If the figs and apricots are large, cut them in half. Set aside.

Heat oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan or casserole over medium high heat. Add onions and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally until the onions are soft and golden. Add ginger, saffron, cinnamon sticks, and coriander, stirring gently for about a minute. Add chicken and stir until the pieces are thoroughly coated with the onions and spices. Saute for 2 minutes. Pour soaking liquid over chicken. Add additional water if necessary to just cover the chicken. Bring to a boil, cover the pan, reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally and lifting the pot lid to let the steam out.

Stir in figs, apricots, and orange peel. Cover and simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Stir in honey and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Make sure there is enough liquid in the pot, because the sauce should be syrupy, but not dry. Stir in cilantro.  Remove cinnamon sticks if you’d like. Serve immediately (although it was really good reheatd).  This makes 6 servings at about 8 grams of fat/serving.

Hint: If you are going to use orange peel in your cooking, purchase an organic orange so you don’t get chemicals in your food.

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ABOUT KAREN

I have lost 200 pounds. I did not do it through surgery – I don’t like knives and needles – or by joining a club, vigorous exercise, or rigorous dieting. I did it by gourmet cooking. To be precise, by cooking low fat, really delicious food. I love to cook as much as I love to eat. Food magazines are some of my favorite reading. I would feel deprived if I couldn’t have the sensuous experience of good food crossing my lips. This blog is about my perpetual feast, my passionate love of food, with recipes, photos, and occasional advice and principles that I have learned along the way.

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