What a whirlwind the past weeks have been! In that time, I left Santa Fe, swam through the freezing Florida river to marvel at a waterfall my uncle discovered in Colorado’s Weminuche Wilderness, drove 1,944.4 miles across the country, moved in to my new Davidson apartment, and started class.
In the midst of it all, I’ve continued to cook. When Mr. Rogers comes home, he takes off his outside jacket and exchanges it for his inside sweater. To come home, Mr. Rogers takes off his clothes; I cook. The familiar spice of cinnamon is a comfort. The crisp tang of cilantro is centering.
With this attitude, it’s no surprise I would cling to a favorite new recipe. Foreign to your tongue at first, chicken tagine with apricots and almonds is a French twist on North Africa that is so addictive it will quickly become a familiar craving.
For me, this tagine marks coming together and diverging apart. It uses everyday spices that you’ll find in the front of your cabinet to create a rich, colorful dish of new.
Almond Apricot Chicken Tagine
To ends, and then beginnings.
4 ounces dried apricots
1 chicken, cut into 8 pieces (2 legs, 2 things, and each breast cut in half crosswise, leaving wings attached)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoons coarse salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted (add 2 Tbsp if you use boneless skinless chicken)
1 large onion finely chopped
2 cups chicken stock
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus a bit extra for garnish
1 tablespoon honey
juice of 1/2 lemon or lime
3/4 cup blanched almonds, toasted
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Put the apricots in a small bowl and pour boiling water over them to cover. Set aside.
In a large bowl, toss the chicken pieces with the ginger, turmeric, paprika, cinnamon, salt and pepper.
Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven or similar ovenproof casserole. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until translucent.
Add the chicken and cook for 3 minutes, turning the pieces with tongs to release the fragrance of the spices. Pour in the stock, add half of the cilantro and a handful of apricots and cover.
Bake for 40 minutes, turning the chicken pieces once or twice while they’re braising.
Remove the casserole from the oven. Use tongs to transfer the chicken to a deep serving platter, then cover with foil. Return the casserole to the stovetop, add the honey and lemon juice, and reduce the sauce over medium-high heat by about one-third. Taste, and add more salt if necessary.
Return the chicken to the pot, add the almonds and reheat in the sauce. Transfer the tagine back to the serving platter. Drain the apricots and spoon them over the top, then garnish with additional cilantro.