9.17.2012

Stealing Beauty

Usually, I am a proponent of keeping things authentic. There are times, though, when I want to break the rules.

For example, the other night we were really craving something full of flavor and spices, something comforting, yet didn't have the time to make some of our favorite ethnic dishes.

When it comes to comfort food, we often turn to the cuisines of India and Morocco. Why, you might ask, would two 'white boys from the burbs' crave these ethnic foods when seeking comfort? We chalk it up to past lives led in more exotic places than Main Line Philadelphia or Schenectady, New York.

So, confronted with this conundrum of wanting the authenticity of an intensely flavored tagine or curry, yet not having the time, I broke the rule. I stole their beautiful flavors.

I pulled out all my Moroccan spices and went to work. The result was excellent, and it was exactly what we wanted without the time needed for making a tagine. I used the spices, a small piece of fresh turmeric root and some olive oil to make a simple paste for some organic chicken we got at the farmers market, then added some thin-skinned lemon pieces, as well. Minutes later, dinner was ready.

In addition to this non-traditional method of cooking Moroccan food, there was one more non-authentic element to this dish... I used boneless chicken thighs. I have never had a chicken dish in Morocco that was boneless. In fact, when I had my first b'stilla (a sweet-savory chicken-or-pigeon pie) it not only had bones, but the the bones were chopped along with the meat to make bite-sized pieces.

Tiny bones in food - a pet peeve.

I served the roasted chicken dish with couscous that had slivered almonds and dried currants, and kept the couscous moist with the pan drippings from the chicken. I also had soem purple carrots that I glazed with olive oil and a bit of Marsala.

Simple. Comforting. Flavorful. Perfect. (Sadly, not authentic!)

~ David

Moroccan-inspired Chicken

2 teaspoons freshly grated turmeric root or ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ras el hanout (Moroccan spice blend), optional
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 small thin-skinned lemons, preferably organic


Place a large, rimmed baking sheet on the center rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 450° F.

Mix grated turmeric, spices and olive oil in a large bowl. Trim thighs of most fat and place in the bowl with the spice paste; toss with your hands to coat evenly. Let sit while oven preheats.

Carefully arrange the thighs, with sides tucked under, on the preheated baking pan. Cut lemons into eighths (removing any visible seeds) and evenly distribute the wedges, skin-side down, among the chicken pieces. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until chicken is done.

Arrange on a bed of couscous and drizzle pan juices over the chicken. Garnish with roasted lemon wedges. 

Serves 6-8.

12 comments:

  1. I think deep down we all want the depth of flavors without the work, that´s why it´s so great to eat out dishes that are complicated to prepare. This is the perfect chicken dish to break the chicken rut...! And the couscous is good on it´s own!

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  2. Sigh. You've brought back some great memories of travelling through Morocco and its amazing food. I still vividly remember tucking into my first ever b'stilla at the night markets in Marrakech. I want to go back!
    I often make spice mixes such as this one to warm up pieces of chicken, seafood or lamb for a simple pan fry. And when I'm organised I prep it in the morning before work, allowing it to marinate for the day.

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  3. Paula - thank you for acknowledging the chicken rut! So easy to fall into it!

    John - I, too, remember my first b'stilla - an amazing dish. I admit to leaving out any bones when I make it at home, suing quail or chicken instead of pigeon.

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  4. We normally go "Mexican", but occasionally crave those flavors from our time in India or Africa so this will be the perfect solution.

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  5. I love your title--so playful! The chicken sounds delicious! You introduced me to fresh turmeric, for which I will be forever grateful. I'm sure it contributes significantly to this dish. Thanks for another wonderful post!

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  6. Holly - do you usually choose Mexican because you are living there now? Hmmmm... inquiring minds want to know. We love Mexican cuisine, too, and it is so nice to be so close to the border in a city that boasts hundreds of great Mexican restaurants - from tiny taquerias to really upscale venues.

    Susan - I think this is THE dish that used to introduce you to the fresh turmeric. he nice thing about fresh turmeric is that (aside form flavor) it really adds to the pastiness of the slathering mixture. But the dried round turmeric works really well, too.

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  7. I swear I can almost smell this just from looking at the pictures. This is a wonderful way to pay a relatively quick tribute to such wonderful flavors. It is definitely on my list of things to make.

    Erin - ekcantcook.blogspot.com

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  8. Thanks, Erin! Love your site - and how, above all, you like to eat! Isn't food great?!

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  9. Not everything needs to be authentic to taste good and your dish David sure looks like it tastes divine. The chicken looks so appetizing!

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  10. Not only does the chicken look delicious, I'm in love with the beautiful dishes and glasses. stunning colors!

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  11. Thanks, Ahu! The glasses are Moroccan and the dishes are Italian!

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Thank you for taking the time to leave me a note - I really appreciate hearing from you and welcome any ideas you may have for future posts, too. Happy Cooking!

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