Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sort of Moroccan Chicken

I grew up in the Midwest US eating up all the plain cookery that is made there. We had corn of course because so much is grown in Central Illinois. We also ate ground beef casseroles, fried chicken, pot roasts, and tomatoes. Seasonings consisted of salt and in the more daring presentations - bit of black pepper (ground fine and from a little can). I lived there and ate this way for about 25 years.

Then we moved to Houston, a city known for its amazing restaurants featuring every possible cuisines found on the planet. I cannot say I dove right in and started sampling all the flavors, as I did not. I did expand my small town palate a bit and soon loved the more manageable Tex-Mex. It took some time before I ventured passed Tex-Mex and on to the foods of countries I only knew about because of world news reports.

This dish began life somewhere as a Moroccan recipe, but as I am unable to leave a recipe alone, because my husband really cannot tolerate a chickpea that has not been hummusified, and because he also does not care for the texture of regular couscous, I did mess with the recipe and really cannot stand here and pretend it is Moroccan anymore. So, I am about to create an entire new classification of food for this blog - Moroccan American - if you lose this recipe in the posts, look for it there. If you are into the nutrition of foods, here it is, the calories include the couscous but not the side dishes.

Sort of Moroccan Chicken 
(with whole wheat pearl couscous because it's more like rice in size and my husband likes it)

What you start with:

1 T good oil - pure olive oil is ok but do not use extra virgin as you will be doing a high heat saute and brown and EVOO will smoke on you. There's a nice blend of canola and pure olive oil that has a nice high heat point and will not smoke. That way you can have a bit of the good for you oil.

1 medium - large onion, chopped - the size depends on just how much you love onion.

Seasonings to measure ahead of time and put in a little bowl so you can just dump them in at the right time:

2 large bay leaves
8-10 whole cloves, crushed - I used my garlic press!
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric - somewhere along the line I found a place that sells turmeric that is more mustardy in color than the dark orangey brown stuff usually found in the supermarket. I think it tastes better and if you can find it, do get it.
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper

The rest of the stuff to prep and have ready before beginning to cook:

2 pounds of chicken thighs, deboned, deskinned, and chopped

2 pounds of chicken breasts, deboned, deskinned, and chopped

2 (16oz) cans great northern beans, drained and rinsed - if you are not married to someone that hates chickpeas, use those instead and your dish will more resemble real Moroccan food. If you can, get organic and look for a brand like Eden that sells beans in BPA free cans.

1 (16 oz) can fire roasted diced tomatoes, preferably organic

2 cups (minimum, go ahead and have more ready) salt free chicken stock (I'm a fan of Kitchen Basics).

1 T cornstarch (*optional) 

2 large carrots, peeled and cut

1-2 zucchini, peeled and cut

2-3 cups spinach, torn

2 cups whole wheat pearl couscous - prepared per the package directions

How to cook it all together:

Set a large pot on the stove over medium heat. Add the oil, and when it is shimmering add the onions. Saute until they are nicely softened - probably about five - ten minutes. Dump in all the spices and stir things up a bit for a minute - increase the heat to medium high. Then add the chicken and cook until it starts to brown.

Add the beans, tomatoes, stock. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low and allow to cook for a couple hours. The time is necessary as the seasonings really meld and morph during that time.

Now, this is where you may want to make an adjustment. Ideally, this dish cooks itself a bit thick. *If it is too thin, mix up some cornstarch (about 1T) in some of the stock and then add it to the pot. If the mixture is too thick, add more stock. I kind of like the consistency you get with the cornstarch and will use it anyway - the first time I made this I put in WAY too much stock and had to thicken it. It did help that the son kept tasting it and reducing the stock in that way.

About 45 minutes before serving, add the carrots and zucchini. after 30 minutes taste and adjust the seasonings. You may be a salter. If you are, this is the time to add a little. About 15 minutes before serving, start cooking the whole wheat pearl couscous in a medium sized pot. Add the spinach to the meat mix and stir a few times while it wilts.

To serve, spoon couscous on a plate and top with the Moroccan Chicken. In the picture above you can see that I served it with a piece of pita bread and Shirazi Salad from The CC Palate.

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