Introduction: Baked Chicken and Butternut Squash Tagine
Tagine (Tajine) refers to this tasty North African stew as well as the receptacle it is cooked in. This is my take on the typical Moroccan Tagine, which often contains dried apricots or prunes, giving it a characteristic tang. My main ingredients are chicken, butternut squash, and chickpeas, but feel free to improvise with your favorite things! It would probably be pretty easy to convert to vegetarian and get the same yummy results.
This is a very filling, satisfying "winter stew" that's kept me going through these rainy days we've been having where I live. It's so easy to make, so why not try it?
Step 1: Ingredients!
You will need:
-1 whole, raw chicken, cut into serving pieces (leg, breast, wing, etc.)
-1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed
-1 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
-2 cups chicken broth
-Juice of 1 large orange
-1 white onion, chopped
-2 plum tomatoes, diced
-1/2 cup dried apricots
-1/2 cup chopped raw walnuts
-1 Tbsp. olive oil
-1 shallot, chopped
-1 clove garlic, chopped
-1 cinnamon stick
-pinch saffron threads
-2 Tbsp. milk or milk substitute
-1 tsp. Turmeric
-1 1/2 tsp. Cardamom
-1 1/2 tsp. Cumin
-1/2 tsp. Cayenne pepper
-salt and black pepper to taste (season and taste as you go)
Step 2: Make the Base
Preheat oven to 375.
You're going to start out by making a Sofrito, aka a mixture of tomatoes, onion, and garlic (and shallot, in this case).
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, preferably cast iron, and add these 4 ingredients. This would be a good time to add some salt and black pepper "to taste". Stir until all of it has touched the pan, then turn the heat down to medium-low so it can cook while you mix the spices.
Smash up the Turmeric, Cumin, Cayenne Pepper, and Cardamom with a mortar and pestle, or just mix the spices together if you don't have a mortar and pestle. Add the mixed spices and cinnamon stick to the Sofrito and stir to combine. It will turn yellow from the Turmeric. How cheerful!
Now, get ready to turn it even more yellow: Combine the Saffron threads and milk in the mortar and pestle, grind, and let it sit for a couple minutes. If you don't have one, hmmm...maybe use a spoon and small measuring cup?
Add the saffron milk, chicken broth and orange juice to the pan and stir to combine. Don't forget to taste to see if it needs adjustments. This is your last chance to taste before adding the raw meat. Remove pan from heat.
Step 3: Assemble the Dish
Put the cubed squash, chicken, and chickpeas into a Tagine dish or baking dish with a lid. Top with dried Apricots.
Spoon the soup base on top. If there's a little more than can fill the dish that's okay, because you might need it for basting (so don't throw it away!)
Step 4: Bake
Put the lid on the dish and bake for 25 minutes. Remove lid and baste if needed.
Return to oven and bake 45 more minutes.
Remove from oven and let sit with lid on for at least ten minutes.
Top with chopped walnuts. Enjoy the Tagine! Hopefully you aren't sharing it with too many people, because it's great for leftovers.
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