Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Moroccan Meal


We try to keep the kitchen uncluttered with gadgets. But for Ryan, the holidays bring out a certain interest in international ceramic dishware. Over the past two years, he has gifted me with a few items that one might not find in most American kitchens.

Last year, he shopped at the Christkindlmart in Daley Plaza and bought me a zwiebeln jar, which means onions in German. This year, he followed up with a smaller knoblauch jar for garlic. Considering the amount of onions and garlic that come in the CSA, and how I use these indispensible ingredients in more recipes than I can count, I treasure these jars. There is the kitsch factor to appreciate too.

He also bought me another item that we had been contemplating - a tajine. The conical clay pots are used in Morocco to slow cook meat, veggies, fruit, and spices. The pointy top collects the steam and returns the condensation to cook the food in the dish. Lovely aromas ensue.

There are many different combinations that can go in the tajine, but commonly used foods include chicken, lamb, pork, fish, onions, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, apples, pears, prunes, raisins, dates, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, cumin, paprika, and saffron. Lemons and olives are frequently used ingredients.

Our came from a local giftshop that sells stuff like mood crystals and smells powerfully of patchouli. Unfortunately this odor had seeped into the tajine and failed to go away no matter how much we washed it. Finally we crossed our fingers that the food would taste okay.

The tajine came with a simple chicken recipe. It called for dried apricots, which always remind me of my grandmother, who passed away when I was a teenager.

I have this memory of us taking one of those tiny airplanes with an aisle you need to sidestep through and an overhead compartment that fits nothing but a jacket. It was a bumpy flight through the mountains so to calm our nerves from the turbulence, she took out a bag of apricots and handed them across the aisle one by one.

Each holiday season, my grandfather sends a bucket of trail mix. For some reason, he sent apricots this time. We mixed them with the other ingredients in the dish, put the whole deal in the oven, and passed the time with a Bollywood movie called Uriya.

Two hours later the oven buzzed. We were still watching this very long movie but paused to see how it turned out. The chicken was succulent and infused with flavor. There was no hint of patchouli although it was a bit too sweet - next time I would go easy on the honey. But the meal was one of the easiest to make and most delicious that I've eaten in a long time.

We then watched the end of the movie in which (spoiler warning!) the male lead, in trying to prevent his lady love from committing the terrorist act of detonating a bomb at India's Independence Day parade, begged her to blow them up together instead. And she did.

I suppose there is something to say about the different ways that people show love for one another, but I will leave it at that.

Holman Pottery* Tajine Recipe
4 chicken breasts, skinned
1/4 cup honey
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 sticks cinnamon
Juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons turmeric
1/2 cup dried apricot quarters

Preheat oven to 350. Arrange chicken breasts in bottom of tajine. Pour honey over chicken; sprinkle with onion and then with minced garlic. Add cinnamon sticks and sprinkle with lemon juice and turmeric. Top with apricot quarters, cover. Bake for about 2 hours or until fork can be inserted in chicken with ease. Remove cinnamon sticks from chicken mixture and serve with rice or couscous. Makes 4 servings.

* Makers of our tajine.


1 comment:

Made By Angie said...

weird, i have that same memory of grandma!!!

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