Moroccan Chicken

According to Wikipedia, Moroccan cuisine is one of the most diversified cuisines in the world. The reason is because of the interaction of Morocco with the outside world for centuries. The cuisine of Morocco is a mix of Arab, Berber, Moorish, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean African, Iberian, and Jewish influences.

The history of Morocco is reflected in its cuisine. Political refugees left Baghdad in the Middle Ages and settled in Morocco, bringing with them traditional recipes that are now common in Morocco, but forgotten in the Middle East. We know this because there are striking similarities between a 12th century (Christian reckoning) collection of recipes by Al-Baghdadi, and contemporary Moroccan dishes.

A signature characteristic is cooking fruit with meat, such as quince with lamb, or apricots with chicken (which the original Cooking Light Moroccan Chicken Recipe called for). Spices are also used extensively in Moroccan food. Common spices include cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, ginger, pepper, paprika, anis seed, sesame seed, coriander, parsley, saffron, and mint.

This was my first time both eating and cooking Moroccan food and I really enjoyed the mix of spices and sweetness of the raisins. I must admit that it’s not the most attractive dish but the combination of flavors are wonderful. As in previous recipes I’ve posted, I have slightly changed this recipe, and I believe for the better. I usually get most of my recipes from Cooking Light as they are a healthier version of the original, though they usually require additional steps and ingredients. Since many Cooking Light readers are avid cooks, the recipes are catered to people who have a stocked kitchen. And I know better than anyone, that this is usually not the case with NYC dwellers, which is why I always try to include helpful tips and substitutions.

So for example, in this recipe, you can use some of what you have on hand. The initial recipe had called for dried apricots but those tend to be both expensive and sometimes harder to find. I felt that raisins are a great and less expensive alternative. Another substitution I’ve made is using ground ginger instead of fresh and have actually doubled the spices to add more flavor. If you like your chicken a bit spicier, you can add some tumeric or cayenne pepper to heat yours up. I also chose to use bone-in chicken instead of boneless, as I feel it gives the dish more flavor. Though I would recommend using a mix of dark and white meat to give the dish more texture. I’ve also substituted butternut squash for chick peas, since it’s delicious and in season and used brown rice instead of couscous because I already had it on hand. But feel free to experiment with your own substitutions!

Servings & Cooking Time

8 servings (serving size: about 3/4 cup)

Preparation: 15 minutes

Cook Time: About 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 pounds mix of bone-in chicken thighs & breasts (you can use boneless but bone-in has more flavor)
  • 2 cups thinly sliced yellow onion
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 cups diced butternut squash (1/4 inch pieces)
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup dry brown rice (+ 2 cups water or chicken broth)

Preparation

1. Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add half of chicken to pan; cook 5 minutes, browning on all sides and then repeat procedure with remaining chicken. Place browned chicken on a plate while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

2. Add onion to pan; sauté for 3 minutes or until tender. Add ginger and next 6 ingredients; sauté for 30 seconds or until fragrant.

3. Stir in broth, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Return chicken to pan and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour or until chicken is tender. (The chicken should be falling off the bone at this point)

4. While the chicken simmers, combine 1 cup of dry brown rice with 2 cups water or chicken broth in a small pot. Bring the mixture to a boil, then cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. You should check on your rice to make sure it doesn’t burn, adding additional water as necessary. After the 20 minutes, turn off the burner and let the rice sit for another 10 minutes.

5. Remove chicken from pan with a slotted spoon and cool slightly. Once the chicken has cooled, carefully shred the chicken into bite sized pieces.

6. Then add chicken, butternut squash, and raisins to pan. Cover and simmer 10-15 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

7. When the dish has finished cooking, spoon about 3/4 of rice into a small bowl and then 1 cup of the Moroccan chicken and serve.

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