I'd like to put a disclaimer out there that this dish is probably not authentically Moroccan in any way. Because of poor planning and evening commitments, I had to bastardize this guy to fit my needs. Though the original calls for apricots, I had none and used raisins. The chickpeas I thought were in my pantry were somehow missing so I left those out. I added cannellini beans to the leftovers, and would highly suggest these as an alternative. Lastly, the original calls for a whole chicken. I imagine bone-in chicken would be delicious, but since I was cooking for one, I used boneless skinless chicken. I like leftovers, but not sure about a whole chicken. Lots of changes made on the fly, huh? Thankfully, this turned out delicious and full of flavor. Cinnamon and the sweet raisins offset the spiciness from the red pepper while simmering the chicken in the spices results in juicy and tender meat.
Since the couscous calls for raisins, the raisins in the chicken dish may be overkill for some. I love them, so didn't mind the extras. If you decide to make this, maybe you should plan ahead unlike me!
Moroccan Spiced Chicken
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated
1 1/4 teaspoons sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tsp fresh lemon zest
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice , from 1 to 2 lemons
5 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 5 teaspoons)
1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces (I used about 1.5 lbs of boneless skinless chicken)
salt & pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion , halved and cut into 1/4-inch slices (about 3 cups)
1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon honey
1 medium carrot , peeled and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick coins
1 cup dried apricots , halved (I used about 1/2 cup raisins)
1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas , drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1. Combine spices in small bowl and set aside.
2. Season chicken liberally with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in large heavy--bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat until beginning to smoke. Brown chicken pieces in single layer until seared, but not cooked through, about 4-5 minutes. Transfer chicken to large plate;if using whole chicken, peel off skin and discard.
3. Add onion and lemon zest to the pot, stirring occasionally, until onions have browned at edges but still retain shape, 5 to 7 minutes (add 1 tablespoon water if pan gets too dark). Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add spices and cook, stirring constantly, until darkened and very fragrant, 45 seconds to 1 minute. Stir in broth and honey, scraping bottom of pot with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits.
4. Add carrots, apricots or raisins, and chicken (with any accumulated juices) to pot, arranging breast pieces in single layer on top of carrots. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for approximately 10 to 15 minutes.
5. Transfer chicken to plate or bowl and tent with foil. Add chickpeas to pot; increase heat to medium-high and simmer until liquid has thickened slightly and carrots are tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Return chicken to pot and add cilantro and lemon juice; stir to combine and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with couscous.
Saffron Couscous with Toasted Almonds
From Cook's Illustrated
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups plain couscous
3/4 cup sliced almonds
pinch of saffron threads, crumbled with fingers
1 small onion , chopped fine
3/4 cup raisins
1 3/4 cups canned low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice from 1 lemon
Ground black pepper
1. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the foaming subsides, add the couscous and cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until some grains are beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Scrape the grains from the skillet into a large bowl and return the pan to medium heat. Add the almonds and cook, stirring frequently, until they are lightly toasted and aromatic, about 1 1/2 minutes. Scrape them into a small bowl.
2. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter to the skillet. Once it melts, add the saffron, onion, raisins, and 3/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion has softened and is beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the broth and water, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil.
3. Add the boiling liquid to the bowl with the toasted couscous, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and allow to sit until the couscous is tender, about 12 minutes. Remove the plastic wrap, fluff the grains with a fork, and gently stir in the almonds and lemon juice. Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.