NEW YORK CITY — When I went to Morocco more than a decade ago, I only spent a few hours there.
But during that visit, I got to eat a great chicken tagine, a braised, fragrant chicken dish that is prepared in a tagine, an earthen vessel that is used for cooking and then serving.
The meal was delicious and served on a bed of couscous with toasted almonds, a great helping of comfort food that balanced earthy heat and sweetness.
If you don't have a tagine, or don't want to buy one, don't worry. Neither do I.
Instead, I used two simple cooking methods with a regular pan to achieve a perfectly roasted, tender and flavorful chicken breast with a delicious, sweet and spicy sauce.
The dish is paired with a bright, lemony salad of Persian cucumbers and fennel, which cuts the spice of the chicken and gives the dish some bite.
Serve it up with couscous and toasted almonds for a balanced dish that's hearty and filling.
Here's how to make it tonight:
For the chicken
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast (breasts split in half)
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped into rounds
1 medium white onion, diced
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
6 whole cloves
2 cloves garlic minced
3 cups chicken stock
3 sprigs mint
1 tsp. cumin
1 tbs. garlic powder
8 dried apricots, roughly chopped
1/4 cup parsley, roughly chopped
For the salad
1 large fennel bulb; bulb sliced thin or shaved, stems chopped into bite-sized pieces and fronds torn into small pieces
3-4 Persian cucumbers, skin on and thinly sliced on the bias
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp. sugar
Salt and Pepper
For the couscous
1/2 cup toasted almonds
1 1/2 cups couscous dry
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Preheat a large oven-safe skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat.
3. Put the chicken in a bowl with the spices, season with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil and combine.
4. When the pan is hot, add the chicken and sear about 5 minutes on each side so that a nice crust forms.
5. Remove the chicken from the pan and then add the onions, garlic and carrots.
6. Sweat the vegetables for about 5 minutes, or until partially softened.
7. Then make room in the middle of the pan and add the chicken back in. Pour in enough stock to partially cover the chicken and add the sprigs of mint and dried apricot.
8. Bring the liquid up to a simmer and then transfer the dish to the oven. Cook about 25 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
9. While the chicken is cooking, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil salt, sugar and pepper. Toss enough dressing with the salad to coat and set aside to marinate.
10. Make some couscous according to the instructions and toss in some roasted almonds.
11. Remove the chicken from the pan when finished and transfer the pan to the stovetop. While the meat is resting, reduce the sauce in the pan by half, or until slightly thick, about 8 minutes. Toss in the chopped parsley at the end.
12. Slice the chicken and serve with the sauce, couscous and salad.
13. Dig in.