Last Night’s Dinner: Chicken Tagine with Fennel, Olives, Root Vegetables, and Chickpeas

I love cooking dinners for friends who enjoy food.  Great example- on Friday I emailed our friends to make sure they had no opposition to a Moroccan-style chicken stew.  Their response: “Sounds great!  Will this be a tagine?  I’ll look into wines that go well with Moroccan food!”  I should have known they’d know what a tagine is- no need to dumb it down to “chicken stew.”

I’ve cooked this Bon Appetit recipe for Chicken Tagine with Fennel and Olives before, and loved it.  But I agree with some of the reviews that it needed a bit more flavor, so I upped the spices this time.  I think letting the chicken sit in the spices for about an hour prior to cooking helped as well.

I also wanted to make it a little heartier, so we roasted some root vegetables and chickpeas, which were served over coucous along with the tagine.  The end result?  A well-balanced meal with lots of flavors and just the right amount of spice.  I recommend serving a Zinfandel along side it, as we did last night, thanks to our wonderful friends.

(Recipes are presented in the order of preparation.)

Spice Roasted Chickpeas (from Bon Appetit via Epicurious)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

The original recipe calls for toasting coriander and cumin seeds and then grinding them in a spice mill.  I’m so lazy.  I skipped toasting the 3/4 teaspoon coriander seeds and just ground it by hand (hey, it was an excuse to use my mortar and pestle), and then added 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin.

Drain and rinse one 15 ounce can chickpeas, then thoroughly pat them dry with a paper towel (this helps them get crunchy).  Add chickpeas, a tablespoon olive oil, cumin, coriander, pinch of cayenne, and pinch of kosher salt to a rimmed baking sheet.  Stir to coat evenly.

Roast until lightly browned and crispy, about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally.

These can be made several hours ahead.

Roasted Root Vegetables

Preheat over to 375 degrees.  We happened to have a bunch of sweet potatoes, parsnips, and a couple carrots in the fridge so I cut them up into 1 1/2 or 2-inch chunks.  Place veggies in a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle with some cumin and cinnamon, season with salt and pepper.  Toss to coat.

Roast until veggies are tender, about 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Couscous

Cook some whole wheat couscous according to package directions.  I think you can figure it out.

Chicken Tagine (from Bon Appetit via Epicurious)

The original recipe calls for six boneless, skinless chicken thighs.  I couldn’t find organic chicken thighs, so I went with 1 1/2 pounds of chicken breasts.

Mix together two teaspoons ground cumin, one teaspoon paprika, 3/4 teaspoon sea salt, and 1/2 teaspoon cayenne.

Cut chicken breasts crosswise into 2- to 3-inch pieces.  Toss in a large bowl with spices to coat evenly.  (If you have time, cover the bowl, and refrigerate for about an hour.)

Trim two medium fennel bulbs, halve vertically, then cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices.  Halve, then quarter, 1/2 cup brine-cured green olives.  Coarsely chop one cup fresh cilantro.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Brown chicken, two minutes on each side.  Transfer to plate.

Add another tablespoon olive oil and fennel to skillet.  Saute until golden, about 5 minutes.  Return chicken and juices to skillet.  Add 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth and two tablespoons lemon juice.  Bring to a simmer, cover and reduce heat to low.  Cook until chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes.  Add olives.  Simmer until sauce thickens, about 5 minutes.  Stir in cilantro.  Season with salt and pepper.

Putting it All Together

Divide couscous among four bowls, add roasted root vegetables.  Top with chicken tagine, spooning extra sauce over root vegetables and couscous.  Sprinkle with roasted chickpeas.

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