Chicken Tagine with Dates and Yogurt

I know it’s been awhile, but I’ve been so busy getting ready for school to start (it finally has!) that I haven’t had a moment of time to do this.  But, I promise, now that I’m in school, with a schedule, and learning new, exciting things about food every day, that I’ll update this much much more often.  My goal is daily, but we’ll see how that goes.

So over my break, I spent a lot of time cooking.  I had a lot of foods I wanted to make before being trapped in night classes.  Tagine was top on my list.  I first had Tagine when I was very young, and dates, olives and chicken were three things I hated the most, so I never thought I liked it.  Fast forward to my senior year of high school, when my family took a trip to Morocco.  You know what we had? Tagine.  I loved it and have been wanting to learn how to make it ever since.

This recipe is based off of a Cook’s Illustrated recipe, so you pretty much know it’s going to be good.  I changed it a bit though based on what I had on hand in the kitchen.

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Chicken Tagine with Dates and Yogurt (adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)

What you need for the Tagine:

  • 5 or 6 cloves of garlic, minced (don’t press it, it doesn’t taste as good)
  • 1 1/4 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger (ground or minced fresh will do)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (you can add more or less depending on how spicy you like it)
  • zest from one lemon
  • 4 lbs skin-on chicken (I highly recommend legs or thighs, but breasts work too)
  • salt and ground pepper
  • olive oil
  • one large onion, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
  • 2 carrots, cut into very large coins
  • 2 zucchinis, cut into sticks
  • 2 cups of low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup pitted dates, cut in half
  • 2 T of cilantro, chopped (you can add more if you really like cilantro)
  • 1/2 cup plain, whole-milk yogurt

What you need for the Couscous

  • 1 1/2 cup Middle Eastern couscous
  • 2 tsp butter
  • 2 chopped shallots
  • 3 cups of chicken stock
  • salt and pepper to taste

What you do:

  1. Start by combining 4 tsp of garlic, the paprika, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, and cayenne in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the rest of the garlic and 1/3 of the lemon zest.
  2. Heat 2 T of olive oil in a dutch oven until very hot.  While the oil is heating, pat the chicken dry.  Once the oil is hot enough, place half the chicken in the dutch oven and brown on each side for about 5 minutes.  Transfer the chicken to a plate, leaving the juices, then brown the rest of the chicken and transfer to the plate.
  3. Make sure there is at least 1 T of fat in the pan.  If you need to, add more olive oil, or drain off if there is excess.  Add the onion, the remaining 2/3 of the lemon zest, and 1/4 tsp salt and cook over medium heat until the onion is softened, about 7 minutes.  Stir in the garlic-spice mixture, the carrots and zucchini and cook until the spices are fragrant (should take about a minute).  Add the broth.  Scrape up any brown bits that form.
  4. Return the chicken to the pan along with any of its accumulated juices and bring it to a simmer until the chicken is fully cooked and tender.  For thighs and drumsticks, this will be about an hour.  For breasts, it will take about 20 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, melt the butter fr the couscous in a separate pan.  Add in the shallots and cook until softened, about 6 minutes.  Add the chicken stock, and couscous and bring to a boil.  Simmer, covered, for about ten minutes or until the couscous is fully cooked.
  6. After the chicken is fully cooked, remove the chicken from the Dutch oven and transfer to a plate and cover with a tented piece of aluminum foil.
  7.  Try to remove as much fat as you can from the top of the broth mixture, then add the dates and bring back to a simmer until the carrots are softened and the sauce is slightly thickened (about 6-7 minutes).  Stir in the garlic-lemon zest mixture, cilantro and yogurt and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Add the chicken back into the Dutch oven and serve.
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