I’m in Boston this week with N – well technically Cambridge. No cooking for me this week b/c we’re out of town – and while it’s nice to get a break – I definitely am looking forward to getting home and making some new delicious stuff! I’ve had a lot of time to play on the internet here and have found so many interesting recipes I want to play with!
So while I’m here I’m going to share a recipe that I made a few weeks ago. This recipe is fabulous. The flavors are a combination of sweet, spicy, and savory – which it turns out is pretty amazing. This is another one of those great recipes that you throw everything together, cover, and voila – delicious meal ready in an hour! This is a meal that I would make on a Sunday – just because it needs an hour and most of the times during the week I get home from work and am starving so need to make something quick!
First things first….here’s what you’ll need: chicken thighs (boneless skinless chicken thighs can be substituted to save on fat but not skimp on flavor), pitted dates, honey, orange blossom water (I accidentally put rose water in the pic….see below to see what the orange blossom water bottle looks like), cinnamon sticks, ginger garlic paste (or 3 cloves garlic, 1 inch of peeled/grated ginger), cayenne pepper, and salt and pepper.
The first step is to salt and pepper the chicken thighs – I used about 1.5 teaspoons and ½ teaspoon pepper for the top and bottom of the chicken. Place chicken thighs, skin side down, into a large pan and sear the heck out of the skin.
Note: make sure you use a pan with high sides – we’re going to be braising the chicken thighs in the same pan and you want to make sure the pan is large enough to fit all the ingredients. I am using a Rachael Ray pan – it comes with a great lid as well which is perfect for this dish. Also note: I didn’t use any additional oil in this dish. By searing the chicken skin in the pan – a lot of oil is released from the chicken thighs naturally – so no need for oil when browning the chicken.
I have just recently mastered the art (or not mastered…but you know what I mean) of browning. I used to be too impatient during the browning process and continually check on the protein or whatever it is – and flip them over and rearrange – I’ve learned that the trick to a good sear on chicken or meat is to just LEAVE IT ALONE! Simple enough. To leave the chicken alone and not mess with it takes a little bit of will power. But look at that gorgeous rendered chicken skin. It’s beautiful and crispy and brown. So that’s the trick – put the chicken in a hot pan and leave it alone for a good 4-5 minutes. Then flip over and repeat for the underside of the thighs.
Ok – now while the chicken is browning – busy yourself with chopping the dates. I bought these pitted dates – they aren’t the best quality and aren’t great for eating as they are b/c they are dry – but they are just fine for this dish. I cut the pieces into 3 or 4 smaller pieces per date. The size of the dates don’t have to be uniform – they melt away in the cooking process leaving the dish sweet and savory!
After you have chopped the dates it gets pretty easy from there. Flip the chicken over again in your pan so the skin is facing up. If there is a lot of extra fat in your pan drain the fat out so you have 1 teaspoon remaining. Add water to about half way up the chicken thighs. I think (I don’t remember exactly) that I used about a cup and a half of water.
Note: be careful when adding the water – you don’t want to slosh the water on the chicken skin. You just did a wonderful job browning your skin – you don’t want to mess it up by pouring water over it.
Alright – water is added – now add the chopped up dates, honey, cinnamon sticks, and cayenne pepper. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and allow the chicken to braise over medium heat for a half hour. Check on the dish every 10 minutes to make sure there is still enough water in the pan – if the dish is cooking over too high of heat, adjust and add more water. You don’t want a very saucy dish – but you definitely want some gravy to eat with couscous and bread.
After a half hour add in 1 tablespoon of orange blossom water. Now – I should note….this sounds super exotic and I kind of love it for that – but the orange blossom water doesn’t make or break this dish. I found this stuff at the Mediterranean/Middle Eastern grocery near my house – but if you can’t find it – make the dish as is and either skip the orange blossom water or add in some orange zest instead. The orange blossom water smells more flowery than orangey though. It’s interesting. If you like floral accents – this is the ingredient for you. I don’t so I just add 1 tablespoon which is just perfect!
After you add the orange blossom water stir that pan around and get everything mixed then cover again for 10 more minutes. Taste the gravy for seasoning – if it needs more salt and pepper add now. After ten minutes check your chicken by poking it with a fork or knife – it will be tender….that’s when you know it’s done. The date gravy should have reduced by about half or two thirds – which is just fine.
I made cilantro/lemon zest couscous to accompany this chicken. I seriously love this dish. Just make the couscous per box instructions and then add 1/4 c. chopped cilatnro and zest/juice from 1 lemon. To eat this dish – I cut the chicken off the bone – put a layer of couscous on the bottom of the plate – top with the cut up chicken and lots of the date gravy – and put couscous and chicken on pieces of flatbread or pita – soooo good. I made this a few weeks ago – so as I am writing this right now my mouth is watering remembering how delicious it is!
I hope you try this dish – it’s definitely a dish that people will remember – it sounds exotic and different – but is surprisingly easy! Enjoy!
Chicken Tagine w. Dates and Orange Blossom Water
Click here for recipe.
8 chicken thighs (can substitute boneless skinless chicken thighs)
¾ c. chopped dates
1 T. honey
½ t. cayenne (more or less depending on heat enjoyment)
2 cinnamon sticks (or ¼ t. ground)
1 T. orange blossom water
1 ½ t. salt
½ t. pepper
water to braise chicken
- Heat large pan (tagine, dutch oven, pan) over high/med-high heat. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Place chicken thighs skin side down in pan and brown skin for 4-5 minutes or until nicely browned. Flip chicken over and brown under side of chicken. If you pan is too small to brown in 1 batch, use 2 batches in order to brown the skin evenly.
- While chicken is browning, cut up the dates into smaller pieces.
- After the underside of chicken has browned, flip chicken back over so the skin side is facing up. Remove all but 1 t. of fat from the pan. Add in enough water to come ½ way up the chicken thighs – being careful not to pour the water directly on top of the freshly browned chicken skin.
- Add in the dates, honey, cayenne, cinnamon sticks and gently incorporate the ingredients into the braising water. Cover with a tight fitting lid and cook over medium heat for 30 minutes, checking every 10 minutes to make sure the gravy isn’t too thick. If the gravy is too thick – simply add more water. You want the gravy to reduce by half or two third’s depending on how thick you like it.
- After 30 minutes add in the tablespoon of orange blossom water. You can omit this or add in orange zest if you prefer.
- Cover again for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes check the chicken to make sure it is fork tender and remove from heat.
- Serve with lemon/cilantro couscous (cook per package instructions and add ¼ c. cilantro and zest from 1 lemon) and toasty flat bread or pita bread.