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"We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie." David Mamet

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Tagine Dream No. 1: Chicken tagine with chickpeas and dried cherries

My new tagine
I've wanted a moroccan tagine  for years - and finally got one for my birthday from dear Pete and Jack. I love the aspirational heaven-toward funnel shaped lid, and the way food looks served in it at the table. Mostly, I adore the food that's cooked in it. I've eaten tagines for years, notably at my Aunt Clotilde's in France and Cafe Mogador on St. Mark's where I treasured the rich, layered spices and aromatics that compose their base. 
     Oddly, my North African-born mother never made or used tagines. All of her crazy-good meals, from the most basic hamburger to her fresh salad, had a Mediterranean cache, and she would break out some truly middle eastern recipes for holidays or special occasions. Also, unlike me, she never did cozy up to stews or soups. The closest she got was a memorable Julia Child-inspired Chicken Marengo, a similar dish with Italian flavors, which were probably more appealing to our American-born father and to us suburban kids.
     Last night I gingerly approached my earthy-orange tagine, not sure how to actually cook with it. But I am here to tell you that it was so easy and so gratifying. The most time-consuming part was grinding up the Ras El Hanout spice blend. Everything was done in the same pot, and it took no longer than any braised stew.
     There seem to be as many varieties of tagine as there are lasagna. The traditional tagine has several components: some sort of meat, usually chicken or lamb, arabic spices, and dried or preserved fruit, which is stewed and served over couscous. I happened to have on hand chicken parts, canned garbanzos, quinoa and dried cherries and quinoa. With a tip of my tagine lid to the Bon Appetit Test Kitchen, my first adventure with tagine was a big hit with Pete and Jack.

Click below to jump to recipe...