The Hand Off: Moroccan Chicken with Figs
by Brianna Bain
What a perfect time to fix something warm in the kitchen. Over the past week temperatures in San Diego have cooled and the wind has picked up, lifting the sweet smells of damp bark and fallen leaves from our recent rains. Fall in San Diego is pale in comparison to the magnificent seasonal transition of the East coast but it still makes my little California lovin’ heart flutter. It is by far my most favorite time of year wherever I am. Every year without fail, I am taken by the light of this season. Every year without fail, I am taken by the light of this season. The warm glow of the low sun that gives everything a romantic backdrop, casting beautiful shadows that juxtapose the bright colors of the surrounding vegetation and strikingly blue skies. I am mesmerized by the forces that be and give thanks to that 23. 5 degree tilt of our Earth’s axis. Without this tilt we would be without seasons, without the change that brings each region it’s rhythm and without so many reasons to celebrate our connection to the Earth. If I could bottle the joy experienced through the Fall season and sample from it all year long, I would!
Sarah’s Roasted Pepper Bisque re-ignited my love for this season and ruffled my senses, informing my vision of sweet warm root veggies and Mediterranean spices. Instead of choosing one ingredient from her recipe I selected the medley of vegetables to relay- transforming a liquid melange of sweet roasted peppers to a chunky, chicken and veggie stew of sorts. I turned to my internal recipe library and pieced together a dish based on a recipe I once borrowed from a friend. It’s a simple yet flavorful chicken and vegetable dish cooked in a tajine. Everything goes in raw, pop on the lid and in 40 minutes you have a savory and delicious meal.
For this week’s recipe I opted to buy a whole chicken to add to my medley of veggies. Buying a whole chicken can seem a little scary for some but if you challenge yourself with this task it will pay off! A chicken is a great starting place for those who want to practice getting the most out of their meat consumption. All the “waste” of cutting whole chicken can be immediately used to make your own chicken stock for a tasty soup or it can be saved and frozen for when you feel inspired. Click here for instructions on how to cut a whole raw chicken. I cut my chicken into 8 major pieces leaving the drumsticks and wings with the bone, deboning the breast and thighs and cutting the largest portions of meat down to 2-3 inches for even cooking and ease in serving. If you are not feeling up to the whole chicken thing then this recipe can easily be prepared with boneless skinless breasts or any other favorite cuts. ( see below for vegetarian suggestions)
Moroccan Chicken with Figs
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 10 minutes
- 1 whole chicken, or equivalent in skinless/boneless pieces
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 4 stalks celery
- 1-2 tomatoes, chopped
- 3 sweet parsnips
- 5 small-medium parsnips
- 7-10 mission figs
- 1/2 one orange (small)
- 1 tsp tumeric
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp Garam Masala
- 4 ground cloves
- 1-6 oz. tomato paste
- salt, to taste
- 1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- chopped parsley, for garnish
- 2 cups goat yogurt, for garnish
- Peel the parsnips and sweet potato and chop into cubes, set aside.
- Chop the onion, tomato, and celery and set aside
- Wash figs and halve, set aside.
- If cooking a whole chicken click here for a cutting instruction video. Otherwise section fresh or defrosted chicken pieces into small 2-3 inch pieces and set aside
- In a medium bowl mix together the tomato paste, fresh orange juice, chicken broth, spices and salt.
- Arrange the vegetables and chicken pieces in Tajine with even distribution. Top with halved figs.
- Evenly pour tomato-broth mixture over prepared veggies and chicken.
- Add a bit more broth if necessary. It is important that liquid reaches the bottom of the pot to ensure that there is not any dry contact of veggies or chicken to the pot.
- Pop on the lid and cook over medium flame for 40 minutes.
- Serve immediately. Top with chilled goat yogurt and fresh chopped parsley.
My only warning in making this meal is to be aware of the amount of orange juice and the number of figs you decide to use. It can easliy become a little too sweet if you are not careful of the balance. After making this dish, which did receive good reviews, I remade it for a group of friends but omitted the orange juice and parsnips and added 2 red bell peppers. I also served it on a bed of Quinoa which helped to soak up some of the yummy juices and round out the meal with some additional texture and plant protein ( a great option for a vegetarian version: omit the chicken and add chickpeas and serve on brown rice or quinoa). Both attempts were successful, just slightly different. I will also note that in making this dish with a whole chicken there was not enough room for all of my ingredients for the size tajine I have. Subsequently, I added the remainder to a saucer with a lid and cooked it along side the tajine. The outcome was still very tasty but it did not have that distinctive earthy flavor that is acquired from the clay tajine. Bottom line- whether you have a tajine or not it’s still a very good meal that will warm you to the core on a chilly fall day.