Monday, April 13, 2009

Recipes: Moroccan Roasted Chicken

It was almost a year ago that Mr. AT and I went to Morocco on vacation. I learned a few valuable things while there.
  1. Beware of eating from Marrakesh food stands, lest you be sick for months thereafter. I do not exaggerate when I say months.
  2. Morocco is one of those countries where the American restaurants serving their cuisine are often tastier than the real thing. Sad but true, I had more forgettable or outright bad meals there than amazing ones. See point 1.
  3. Cooking with fruit makes everything tastier. When Moroccan food was good, it was almost always because the dates, prunes and apricots slow-cooked in tajines were so sweet and bursting with flavor.
Alas, after 10 days of eating from menus that rarely varied (every place seems to have a nearly identical menu of a few cous cous dishes, a few tajine dishes and a pastilla), I was in no mood to eat Moroccan food for a long, long time. Fast forward to now, and I'm finally ready to enjoy the slow-cooked and spice-infused joys of this North African cuisine once again. Enter a Food and Wine roasted chicken recipe I'd been saving for ages - Moroccan roasted chicken with dates and apricots. Oh the joy!

This recipe requires little effort, but a bit of time - it's 70 minutes of total oven time but no significant chopping or advance prep work. Simply quarter an onion, peel some garlic, throw in your fruits and rub a spiced butter all over the chicken and voila - an hour and change later you have an unbelievably juicy chicken, heavenly fruits roasted to sweet perfection and the intoxicating aromas of cinnamon, coriander and cumin.

This dish is quite simply bliss. It's enough to make a gal forget debilitating food poisoning, and that's really saying something. It's simultaneously hearty and haute, the kind of thing that will impress everyone.

Make this chicken now. I'm serious, put down what you're doing and make this chicken. You won't be disappointed!

Moroccan Roasted Chicken
Food and Wine Magazine

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • One 4-pound chicken, at room temperature
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 12 pitted dates
  • 12 dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  1. Preheat the oven to 425° and position a rack in the lower third of the oven. In a bowl, mix the butter with the cumin, coriander, sweet paprika, cayenne and cinnamon and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Pat the chicken dry. Rub half of the spice butter under the skin and the rest over the chicken; season with salt and pepper.
  3. Set the chicken breast-side-up on a rack in a roasting pan. Scatter the onion, garlic cloves, dates and dried apricots and add 1/2 cup of water. Roast for 30 minutes, until the breast is firm and just beginning to brown in spots. Using tongs, turn the chicken breast-down and roast for 20 minutes longer, until the skin is lightly browned.
  4. Using tongs, turn the chicken breast-side-up. Add another 1/2 cup of water. Roast for about 20 minutes longer, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the inner thigh registers 175° to 180°.
  5. Tilt the chicken to drain the cavity juices into the pan; transfer the bird to a cutting board. Remove the rack from the pan and spoon off the fat. Set the pan over high heat. Add the stock and cook, scraping up any browned bits. Carve the chicken and pass the chunky jus at the table.
I serve this over a 5-minute pine nut cous cous. Even after the chicken was gone, the fruit filled jus and cous cous made for an amazing day after lunch.

Wine suggestion
Rich, melony Chenin Blanc: 2006 L’Ecole No. 41 Walla Voila.



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