Monday, June 19, 2006

Moroccan Chicken With Apricot Couscous and Olive Tapenade

Live From Cassablanca...

I’ve always been fascinated with the Northern African country of Morocco. Forget places like London, Paris, and Rome; if I had the time and money I’d head straight to Portugal, and then when I was through drinking all of the Port wine I could consume I would catch a commuter plane or ship and head down to Casablanca.

Then I’d hang out with all the other Bogart and Bergman fans at “Ricks” sipping Sherry & Cognac while listening to Sam’s replacement pianist “playing it again.”

Unfortunately, since Morocco is something like 97% Muslim, I think it best to keep my white Redneck butt here stateside for the time being.

Not to worry, however, because I can always cook Moroccan food here at home and pretend that I’m looking out at the Mediterranean or far side of the Atlantic. I’ve done it three times recently, and I think that I have the process down to an art now.

Take a look at this recipe for Moroccan Chicken with Apricot Couscous and Green Olive Sauce in Flatbread.

I cooked my own version again last week, and let me tell you—I ate more at one sitting that I have in months if not years. The whole condo smells like a Moroccan Bazzar (without the camel dung) from the unique aroma of the spices involved.

Here's what you need to do to make dinner for two. First I made up a big batch of the spice blend which includes:

2 tsp Cinnamon
24 Whole Cloves
2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
6 tsp Cumin seed
3 tsp Fennel seed
3 tsp Coriander
3 tbsp Sweet paprika
4 tsp Kosher salt
3 tsp Brown sugar

Two boneless chicken breasts (or one breast per person if you’re having friends over)

A couple cloves of garlic, diced fine
1 lemon, quartered
A hand full of fresh cilantro, stemmed
Kosher salt and black pepper
Olive oil

1 cup of couscous
1-1/2 cups chicken broth
½ cup diced dried apricots
¼ cup toasted almond slices
2 hands full of fresh mint leaves
2 hands full of fresh cilantro
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil
2 green onions—green parts only, diced
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

For the Olive Tepenade you need:

1 small can of green olives
1 small can of black olives
½ shallot, diced fine
1 handfull fresh parsley
1 tbsp sherry
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp lemon juice
olive oil

A Bag of Pita Bread

First things first…put all of your spices (everything but the salt and brown sugar) in a skillet and heat it up to bring out the oils. Next add the salt and brown sugar and run everything through a spice mill or food processor to grind it up.

Instead of a whole chicken, I took some boneless chicken breasts and coated them with the spice mixture, then wrapped them up around lemon wedges, diced garlic, and cilantro; then pinned them together with toothpicks and baked them in a 350 degree oven for about twenty minutes (until the inside temperature was 155 degrees F.)

While you’re waiting on the chicken to cook, make the couscous by bringing your chicken stock to a boil, then turn off the heat and add your couscous. Let it sit about 15 minutes, then dice up your apricots, almonds, mint, cilantro, and green onions, and stir them into your couscous with a fork.

Make the Olive Tapenade by dicing your Shallots and parsley, then add them along with the sherry, rice vinegar, lemon juice, and olive oil to your food processor. Now puree it until it is smooth, smooth, smooth, adding your olive oil to assist the process.

Now put your chicken on a plate, toss a helping of couscous on the side, spoon some Olive Tapenade on your pita bread, sit down at the table, and EAT.

Regards Y'all,

The Redneck Gourmet