11.18.2004

Moroccan Chicken (Mutation)



According to it's official government website, the kingdom of Morocco has, since independence, been undergoing "deep socio-cultural mutations." I like how the translator put this, and it makes me wonder. Was it simply an innocent but odd choice of synonyms by someone who didn't grasp the connotations behind the word--or does the person feel that what Morocco has experienced is not simply a "change", a "restructuring", or even a "revolution", but a mutation?

In any case, this delicious Moroccan chicken dish has undergone some mutations, since I mutated it from what I believe was a Bon Appetit recipe, and there's a good chance they mutated it from whatever traditional form it may once have had.

This dish has a lot of pungent flavors that play off each other really well. The smell is amazing when you add the ginger, cumin, and cinnamon, and the sweetness of the prunes and honey is counterbalanced by the lemon juice. It was served with a really tasty cous cous and vegetable dish that Liz made. On the side we had two popular mezze: hummous and tzatziki.

The origin of the term mezze isn't clear, it's probably from early farsi or arabic, or a combination of the two, but it's meaning is well known across the Middle East and North Africa. Mezze means appetizer. I'm actually a bit proud of my hummous recipe. I've been making it for almost ten years, and small tweaks here and there have made it better and better. You can have my hummous recipe, but not yet. One day soon I'm going to cook a big Middle Eastern spread, with all kinds of mezze, including my favorite: dolma, stuffed grape leaves. You can have the hummous recipe then. The tzatziki is a simple dip made of cucumber, yoghurt, fresh dill, salt, and lemon juice. Toast some pita. Yes!

Without further blathering on and on, the recipe:

Ingredients:

6 skinless chicken thighs (chicken breast is fine but dark meat is better for this)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 or 3 large garlic cloves
1 tsp cornstarch (use more if you want the sauce thicker. Flour will work too.)
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cumin
1 can of chicken broth or stock, low salt if possible
1 cup pitted prunes (you can also use dried apricots, or if you're just a little wild, prunes and apricots. Whoa there! Slow down!)
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp. honey (spun honey is my favorite)


Instructions:

1)Wash the chicken thighs then salt and pepper them, let them sit for a few minutes.
2)Heat the olive oil in a skillet or casserole and brown the chicken well on both sides. You should probably use tongs and even a splatter screen, since the water released by the chicken will make the oil jump. Remove the chicken after about 3 or 4 minutes on each side.
3)Add the onions to the same oil and saute until translucent.
4) Stir in starch, ginger, cumin, and cinnamon. Aromatic, no?
5) Gradually stir in broth. Keep stirring!
6) Once you've got a nice bubbling going, add the prunes, lemon juice, and honey, and finally, return the chicken. Simmer until the chicken is done and the sauce is reduced. Serve with cous cous or rice and season with salt and pepper if necessary.

Mmmmmmm, mutation.

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