Citrus Chicken Tajine

Write an article about Tajine and suddenly you have make it. Francene cooked  this citrus chicken version and it was a delight.

Francene has a couple of Moroccan cookbooks and this recipe came from 150 best tagine recipes by Pat Crocker. (tajine / tagine both are acceptable)

Citrus Chicken Tagine – page 64

• Medium tagine

  • 1 piece (1 inch/2.5 cm) fresh ginger root
  • 1 piece (1 inch/2.5 cm) fresh turmeric or 1 tbsp (15 mL) ground turmeric
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp avocado or olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 piece (2 inches/5 cm) cinnamon stick, 1 crushed fine
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 4 bone-in chicken pieces with skin (about 1 1/2 lbs/750 g)
  • 1 orange, sectioned
  • 1/2 cup whole dates
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice or orange flower water
  • 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp Pomegranate Molasses or store-bought or liquid honey
  • 1/4 cup blanched almonds

1. In a mortar (using a pestle), smash ginger, turmeric and garlic. Pound and grind until a paste is achieved. Or, using a small food processor, blend ginger, turmeric and garlic into a paste.

2. In the bottom of a flameproof tagine, heat oil and melt butter over medium heat. Add spice paste, cinnamon and cumin and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 5 minutes or until paste is lightly colored. Add chicken and toss to coat in the spices. Cook, turning frequently, for about 7 minutes or until chicken is browned on both sides.

3. Using tongs, turn chicken so that the skin is up. Tuck orange sections and dates around chicken. Stir in orange juice, lemon juice and molasses and bring to a boil. Cover with tagine lid, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes or until chicken juices run clear for thighs and is no longer pink inside for breasts. Garnish with almonds.

A very easy recipe to follow and the kitchen aromas are just wonderful.

We had a six pack of chicken legs in the freezer and used them. On hindsight, I would not use legs, maybe bone in thighs or breasts cut into thirds. This isn’t finger food unless you enjoy yellow cuticles for a week. The turmeric will color and stain very easily.

We served the chicken tagine with a side of zucchini and a delightful tomato and cucumber salad.

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The mighty Tajine

I wrote a short piece on comfort food. Then I kept re reading it and re writing it & then trashed it. It just rambled on about what I think comfort food is. I think I realized it was more important to cook it than analyze it.

My short definition would be that comfort food be filling and simple, and to me it’s a one pot dish.

The pot often defines what will be cooked and the Tajine is a reflection of a region and style of cooking. The Tajine is a Moroccan cooking vessel. I can’t think of a Tajine without thinking of Moroccan dishes, curried chicken & lamb stews.

Francene and I are fortunate to have several Asian style markets in the area so when we shop for something like curry, we have more styles to select from than most markets have Mexican hot sauces. With so much variety to stir the imagination, we just have to experiment; both with flavors as well as technique.

A wonderful lamb tajine from Antony Worrall Thompson, on the bbc.com website.

In a world of instant cookers, rice cookers, pressure cookers and cast-iron enameled ware there is also that funny looking Tajine. In a world full of the above-mentioned cookers, why in the world would you want to use a Tajine?

Because it is versatile, a Tajine in the right hands can replace all those newly hyped cookers.

Saffron Chicken Tajine from ANDREW ZIMMERN July 2017 , Food & Wine Photo credit John Kernick

The basic Tajine is a clay pot and lid that has been enameled and fired. You should never use it over a high flame as it would crack and break. Since the Tajine style of cooking works so well, you can now get them in enameled cast iron from makers such as Staub and Le Creuset, and stainless steel from Cooks Standard.

It’s the funny looking lid that is the secret to Tajine cooking. The high peaked sides are for the steam and condensation to rise to the top and the inverted cupped top drips the moisture back into the center of your dish. Think of this as a non stop basting process.

We decided to go modern and get the stainless steel with ceramic lid and could not be happier. The stainless bottom is attractive enough to serve from and most of our cookware be it in cabinets, pantry or garage, we buy to cook with not set on display.

 

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Healthy Fried Chicken, ya, right.

Healthy Fried Chicken, now there’s an oxymoron if I ever heard one.

Bread your chicken and place in a cast iron skillet with cooking oil preheated to 350 degrees, cook, turn, drain and serve. Now there is the universal recipe for preparing fried chicken. Of course what you use for breading, or flour and seasoning is up to you.

 

I use an egg wash and Bisquick with Emeril’s SouthWestern rub added to it. I think you get a nice crust and good flavor. But in the end you still have fried chicken. Or should I say, chicken that has been cooked in hot oil. Not healthy.

Now there are many recipes that have you bake the chicken in a 425 degree oven till done, then cool and serve, and there are air fryers that don’t fry but cook with a very hot air and you still have to spray some oil on the food.

Unless I am missing something, we have:

  • Chicken fried in oil, not healthy.
  • Chicken air cooked with oil, sounds like you still get the oil, so what makes it any different than a well drained fried chicken, it’s drier.
  • Finally, baked fried chicken, another oxymoron, but healthier than the other options. But it’s baked chicken, not fried chicken. A crust doesn’t make it fried.

What makes fried chicken so good, well, it’s fried and has some of the oil adding another layer of flavor to it.

There has to be a way to get that good fried flavor and be healthy. Or so I thought.

Fried chicken night, I use a whole chicken cut up in my kitchen.  The back goes into the chicken broth bone bag, the liver, kidney and giblets get cooked, breaded and fried, and then Francene and our jack Russell fight over them.

For deconstructing a chicken I use a sharp boning knife and for splitting the breast I use a cleaver and rubber mallet.

I don’t like to swing a cleaver with other living things in the home and it’s hard to be precise.

Place cleaver at desired cutting spot and rap with a mallet. You receive super clean cuts, you don’t ruin you cutting board, and you don’t have bone chips in your meat.

Flour, egg wash and flour again, add wings, legs and thighs to your 350 degree oil and cook till toasty brown, repeat with breast halves.

Here is where we change directions. Place your partially cooked in oil chicken on a cooling rack placed on a baking sheet, place in a 435 degree oven and finish,

I baked for 20 minutes or so, I can’t be more specific because not all chickens are created equal.

Remove from oven, let set for 10 minutes and enjoy.

Was this a healthy fried chicken, of course not.

It was first cooked in oil.

Why go though the extra steps? Because I think it was healthier.

First we drained what oil we could, then we baked it.  When removed from the oven there was even more oil on the bottom of the baking sheet. Remember we cooked on top of a cooling rack, not sitting in oil on the sheet.

So, can we have healthy fried chicken, I think not. But we can make it healthier and still enjoy fried chicken. BTW it was very juicy.

Feel free to leave a comment.

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Real Men Eat Quiche, some even make it

Quiche is basically a pie shell filled with an egg custard. Once we under stand how basic and simple it can be, we can get creative. I think the most popular is the basic spinach and bacon quiche, anyone can fry some some bacon and toss some raw spinach into a pie shell and pour the custard over them. About the only thing left to be creative about is how much salt and pepper. The great thing about a quiche is its simplicity and rather forgiving custard. For those in a hurry, just use the frozen pie shells found in any mega mart. Once I made my first real pie crust, and it was a failure, I was hooked on doing it myself. No stinking pie crust was going to get the better of me. How do you fail at a pie crust, too much butter and when blind baked it all slid to the bottom of the pan, bummer. BUT, you can always put some cinnamon and sugar on top and tell the kids its desert. So here I am, going to make a quiche, but also thinking I might like a Mexican / SouthWestern version, and while I’m at it, how about a cornmeal crust, after all I am also thinking about a good Tamale. For those that haven’t worked with cornmeal, it doesn’t hold its shape, it’s soft like a muffin.
After some time on the Internet I decided to make this a deep dish quiche, adding to the cornmeal’s limitations. What I came up with was a dough of 80 percent cornmeal and 20 percent flour, add some egg and cheese and it should hold its shape and not crumble. Yet still be cornmeal.
Cornmeal Crust: For one 9 inch spring-form pan
  • 2 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 6 to 8 ounces Cheddar Cheese, grated (about 1 to 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup reduced fat (2%) milk
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
I oiled and parchment papered the spring pan sides to help release and keep the crust together after baking and cooling. Use the 2/3’s of the crust mixture to build the sides and after it’s basically in place, use the remaining 1/3 portion for the bottom of the pan. I used parchment paper in addition to oil on the sides because if the cornmeal stuck to the pan sides, I would pull the cornmeal away from the filling. Just being safer than sorrier.since I still didn’t know how firm the crust would be.  As it turned out, the parchment paper adhered to the cornmeal and had to be pealed off.  As thick as the crust was though, a paring knife slid between the cornmeal and metal would have probably worked. Since I would prefer a thinner crust next time, I will stick with the  parchment paper. I like to use the outside of a measuring cup to shape and smooth the inside. Different sized of cups will determine the top to bottom radius of the crust. Now blind bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes or it starts to brown in a preheated 400 degree oven, remove from oven and set aside. Chipotle Chicken Filling: Custard
  • large eggs
  • cups plain fat-free Greek yogurt
  • cup milk
  • teaspoon ground cumin
  • teaspoon chili powder
Chicken Chipolte
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • tablespoon ground chipotle chili pepper
  • 2 to 3 boneless chicken breast,cut into 1/2 inch pieces 
  • cups Mexican mix shredded cheese
  • 1 can whole chiles
  • 1 can chopped chiles
Note: Chili powder and chipolte Chile powder is not the same. Chipolte is a smoked hot pepper, found in the Mexican spice section as whole chiles Cook chicken with chipotle chili powder until tender, season to taste. Combine yogurt, milk, cumin, chili powder and eggs and blend together. Layer your grated cheese, green chilies and chicken. 2 to 3 layers each. Pour custard over layered chicken and cheese, bake in a 325 degree oven for an hour.   Mix a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste with a southwestern seasoning of your choice, I used a variation of Emeril’s southwestern rub. After an hour in the oven spread a thing layer of paste and rub on top of the quiche. Return to oven for another 30 plus minutes. When internal temp reaches 160-165 degrees, remove from oven and let rest at least 40 minutes.   Even with waxed paper and spray the cornmeal crust may still stick. I have to strip paper off the quiche sides after the spring-form sides had been removed, I also used a thin slicer to slide between the crust and bottom of the spring form so the over sized quiche did not split. Cut into wedges and serve. My preference is to make quiche a day ahead of time, refrigerate and then reheat and serve. Firmer shape and a better melding of flavors. After the fact:  The chicken and chipolte flavors where very mild, yet distinct. A winner in our opinion. The crust came out nice and firm with a great flavor.  Just what I wanted to accomplish and now knowing this I would build the next version with a thinner crust. I would roll out the crust, between sheets of plastic wrap if necessary and piece into the spring-form. Easy to do, use spring-form bottom and sit on top of crust and trim around. The press edged inwards a bit and attach the spring side with waxed paper already oiled in place. Place trimmed strips of crust onto the sides and press to stick. Then take the surplus crust, roll out like a 1/4 inch rope and with an egg wash, press into the bottom seam between sides and bottom. This will provide a thinner and more aesthetic crust when the pie is sliced. I would also serve with a salsa served on the side.
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Wonderful Curry from Jamaica

The weather is getting cooler, and comfort food is most definitely on the horizon. Business also slows down this time of the year and I find I have more time on my hands then I care for.  I also find it difficult to cook for two, as I had too many years of cooking for a family. I am not one for leftovers, so the portions get bigger and bigger. So what can we do to keep fall and winter from becoming blimp season? Cook? Yes, cook. But let’s start by getting a bit more creative. You may wonder how being creative helps to keep the portions under control. Well, I may not like it so I really don’t want a week’s worth in the refrigerator.So, how about if we make something that onlytakesminutes to prepare. Now back to cooler weather and comfort food. I wanted Shrimp Curry, really what I wanted is the shrimp curry my father made in the 50’s and 60’s that seemed so worldly to a young boy. Yellow curry, that stuff from the spice isle.  On second thought, I can do better than that. Okay, lets make Shrimp Curry, but kick it up a notch. Most curry dishes are a breeze to make, really nothing to them and can be made in the time it takes to cook the rice. So how are we going to kick it up? Lets start by deciding what part of the world we are going to be dining, that will tell us more about our curry mix, How about Jamaica? Okay, that means a curry with a bite to it.
If you want really good curry, never go to the spice isle for a bottle of Shillings or McCormick’s curry. Get your Masala box out and start mixing, after all, all kitchens have a Masala box, don’t they? For those that are shaking their heads, wondering just what am I talking about.  Indian cooks have a spice box; this is either a large metal tin or carved wooded box filled with more tins or boxes filled with the individual spices used to build curries or masalas.
Curry is not a spice, but a blend of spices. We think of curry as being from India but native curry dishes can be found through the Caribbean, African coast, India and just about where ever ancient travelers and tradesmen ventured to in centuries gone by. At one time it was spice that was the universal currency, not gold and baubles. Well, maybe some silk as well. Back to dinner, there was shrimp in the freezer, some jasmine rice in the pantry and a door full of spices. A little later, after cruising the Internet I came up with a Jamaican Curry recipe that sounded good, all I was missing was some Fenugreek seeds. Darn, how could I not have had Fenugreek on hand, I’m sure you do. So my recipe from the net looked good, made it, and then started adjusting the spices till I got what appealed to me.
  • 2 teaspoons dry yellow mustard seeds
  • 3 teaspoons ground fenugreek seeds
  • 2 tablespoons ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons All spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon mace
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon clove
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon  cayenne pepper
Combine all and grind in your spare coffee grinder. Yum. And its more than the 2 1/2 tablespoons I will be using. Now another spice tin, this one labeled Jamaican Curry, home made. Now for the dish itself.
  • 1 1/2 pound cleaned, shelled large shrimp
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • 1 small onion finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 1 small red bell pepper finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons of your home made curry powder.
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
Heat olive oil and add onions and garlic along with the curry powder.  Saute till the onion and garlic are translucent and have lost most of the water. Add the coconut milk, tomato paste and simmer mixture for 5 to 7 minutes, add stock or water till you have the liquid consistency desired. I prefer a thicker sauce if serving with rice, thinner is for when eating a soup or stew. Now add the shrimp and red bell pepper, and cook at a simmer another 5 minutes or until the shrimp is as you prefer, and do a quick final seasoning. I never mentioned salt as I don’t think this dish needs any salt added to it.
Serve over rice, or add rice on top. Both ways taste the same, just a different presentation, Enjoy. I would pair this dish with a nice beer or light ale.  
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