Wednesday, March 14, 2012

rivka friedman's moroccan chicken with apricots

When I was a junior in college, I spent a semester in Paris. For the majority of my stay, I lived with a woman named Dominique. She had been a teacher for the University of Virginia's study abroad program in Paris and worked part-time as a tutor. She had long grayish brown hair and wore small wire framed spectacles perched at the end of her nose. She lived in a beautiful light-filled apartment on rue Cherche Midi with her dog Petrus. She constantly smoked foul-smelling little black cigars. She was wonderful.

I gained, conservatively speaking, 10lbs over the six month period I lived with Dominique, mostly because I found the food she cooked irresistible. I don't think she ever made the same thing for dinner twice. Dominique was French, but she had spent a good amount of time traveling in North Africa and the Middle East and the food she made reflected this. I remember in particular a chicken tagine with apricots that was an absolute revelation. I had always eschewed meat dishes that included fruit- I've never been one for sweetened meats of any kind (for instance, I loathe ketchup on hamburgers. Or on anything, for that matter)- but this was something else. The apricots didn't make the dish particularly sweet- they just added another dimension of flavor to the dish. I was amazed.

Cut to last week when I saw a recipe for Moroccan chicken with apricots on Not Derby Pie. I knew I had to try it for myself. 

The dish came together like a dream and it was perfect for the cold, rainy weather we've been having in San Francisco. I cooked while listening to Ali Farka Toure and Ry Cooder. My apartment smelled fabulous. I served the chicken over whole wheat couscous and sprinkled it with parsley and cilantro.

The taste of softly stewed apricots and chicken in sauce brought me right back to that first time I tried the dish in Paris. 

Dominique passed away a few years ago, but I still think of her all the time. My memories of her are wrapped up inextricably with my first flush of love for Paris and the wonderful food I ate at her table night after night. It was a gift, and this recipe feels like one too. 

Rivka Friedman's Moroccan Chicken with Apricots, slightly adapted, original recipe found here

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup olive oil
4-6 chicken thighs, bone-in and skin on
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped (additional for serving)
5 sprigs fresh cilantro, chopped (additional for serving)
5 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 1/2 cups water
2 tbsp mild honey
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 cup dried turkish apricots

Mix together the ground cinnamon, coriander, turmeric, black pepper, 1 tsp salt, and 3 tbsp olive oil in a large bowl. Add the chicken and coat with the sauce.

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Brown the chicken, skin side down, for about 8 minutes (you may have to do this in 2 batches), adding any of the sauce left in the bowl. Flip and cook 3 more minutes, then transfer to a plate.

Add onion and remaining 1/4 tsp salt and cook uncovered, stirring frequently until soft- about 8 minutes. Add garlic, stirring, 3 minutes. Add cilantro and parsley, water, honey, cinnamon stick, apricots, and chicken. Reduce heat slightly and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

Serve chicken over couscous with parsley and cilantro.

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