Monday, October 6, 2008

chicken tagine with apricots and spiced nuts



i've been aching to make a tagine lately. there are whole weeks where i crave making fresh pasta; others where all i want are roast beast sandwiches. and this past week, i've been craving making something in my tagine.

i don't know if it's so much the food, or the act of making something in the tagine that i have been craving. all i know is that it's been far too long since i've used it, as it has been sadly underused this year.

i think that the last time i had a full on North African meal was for my birthday last year. we grilled a leg of lamb and made several tasty sides from Kitty Morse's "The Vegetarian Table: North Africa", with much success. My problem is that i wasn't sure how keen the boy would be with a lot of the "different" (or odd) ingredients that a moroccan/tunisian/algerian recipe calls for. fortunately, a lot of that cuisine can be influenced by french and spanish, so there are a lot of familiar ingredients that one might have laying about in the pantry, so no special store run is really needed.

and part of me thought, Whatever. if the boy doesn't like it, then i'll just have nice tasty lunches for the rest of the week. but seriously, i've no idea why i was so vexed. because between the boy and J (who is, happily, back from Yuma for good), they licked the platter clean, literally.

i used this recipe from epicurious as the guideline, and made the fennel slaw on the side . make an effort to find bitter marmalade. i bought some made with Seville oranges, as blood orange marmalade can be kinda hard to find. seriously take a look at the ingredients on the marmalade jars in the grocery aisle. most are not just made with oranges, but with pear and whatever other fruit. you don't want a sweet marmalade, so make an effort to find something worthwhile; you won't be disappointed. those clementines with ginger syrup which are also part of that menu look really good, and although i didn't make them this time around, i am keeping a mental note to make them soon, especially as clementines are abundant at the Super H of late.

so i served this with rice instead of couscous (which would be more traditional, but i felt like having rice instead), and i announced that dinner was ready rather hesitantly to the boys, and they both tasted it and liked it; however they both said that they were really surprised that it wasn't spicy (e.g: hot) as they thought North African food should be. and then it dawned on me that in the very back of the fridge i had a container of harissa, so i brought that out and made the boys help themselves to a heaping spoonful of it.

let me tell you right now that harissa rules. the dish was good without, but spectacular with. i don't know why i don't use it more often; i use sriracha on everything, so i might as well start using up my stash of harissa.

i can't remember where i got my recipe for harissa; but i do remember that you soak chilies and then blend the whole thing in the food processor. i jotted down some notes on how to make it, and that note has been living on the side of my fridge under a picture of Michael Steele that i got in the mail about a year or so ago. my scribble says:

handful chiles de arbol
soak in water 30 mn
coriander + cilantro ground
seed, stem chiles
blend all w/ garlic + salt
OO or water. sundried tomato
cilantro, dried mint

measurements are up to the maker. i did it to taste. i hate to say it, but sometimes one doesnt need exact measurements; you just do it.

all in all, i can't express how pleased i am that the boy liked this meal.

next up, i plan on making a lamb tagine, and i want to used preserved lemons, as i spent the better part of today making some while i was cleaning my office (sorting paperwork, throwing away a lot of crap, putting up three bags of clothes to give away, and washing windows, if you must know).

this picture? that's my mom on a camel, in marrakech in 2002. and those would be Prada boots she's wearing. because, as she always tells me with the most serious face, one must be fashionable no matter where one is.

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