This post is long overdue. Months and months ago, Carla, a friend from England and, according to her, not the most natural cook in the world, asked what she could serve at a party that could be cooked in advance and wasn’t lasagna, her typical go-to.
The thought of what to suggest came popping up now and then but I was stuck on oven dishes, such as egg strata or savory bread pudding and I wanted to come up with something completely different but still easy.
Fast forward to yesterday. My friend Jeannie made an impromptu trip to Los Angeles and called to see if we could get together. I would never pass up an opportunity to see her even if this week my time is beyond limited: up at 5, driving to the opposite side of town for a pastry job and trying to get back before the traffic gridlocks me out of my canyon. No time to shop or plan a meal in advance. Whatever was in the fridge had to yield a carbs-free meal.
A circuitous thought process that started in Israel, while reading some of Yotam Ottolenghi’s new recipes, ended up in Morocco. Tagine! I will make a tagine, I reasoned.
I actually don’t own a tagine (the pot) so here is my approximation of a chicken tagine with ingredients gathered in my pantry. Any decent Moroccan cook would be aghast but tagine sounds a lot better than stew. And I used Middle Eastern spices. And served it with couscous.
Carla, you can make this ahead and just reheat it before serving. If couscous is not your thing, rice will work just as well. Or a different meat. And put in whatever vegetables take your fancy: root in winter, green in Summer. But always include potatoes, because I am yet to meet anyone who doesn’t like a tuber.
RECIPE – Serves 6
2 pounds/1kg Chicken, cut in large pieces (combination of thighs and breast), skin on
1 Onion, finely chopped
1 Sweet potato, peeled and cut into large cubes
3 or 4 Carrots, peeled and diced
1 pound/500g Potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 Turnips, peeled and cubed
1 cup Olives, green or black or both
1 T Moroccan spices (although I used za’tar)
Salt and Pepper
400 ml Water or chicken broth or a combination of the two
Heat 2 or 3 tablespoons of oil in a large pan (or tagine) on medium, high heat and brown the chicken pieces, until the skin is a nice golden brown. You might have to do this in stages. Remove the chicken to a plate.
Use the fat at the bottom of the pan to cook the onion until translucent, on low-medium heat.
Add the spices, cinnamon and sautee for a minute. Put back the chicken pieces, the vegetables, the olives, salt and pepper to taste.
Cover with water/broth and simmer for about 45 minutes, until the chicken and the vegetables are cooked through. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Some chopped basil may be nice just before serving it, with couscous or rice on the side. Or just big chunks of crusty bread.