Sunday, July 13, 2008

Chicken Tagine in Flat Bread

Chicken Tagine in Flat Bread

From The New York Times Jewish Cookbook edited by Linda Amster (2003).
From Sam Gugino.

Yield: 4 servings

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups boneless chicken dark meat (about 4 large boneless thighs), cut/torn into 1/2-inch cubes/pieces
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1/8 teaspoon saffron threads crushed into 1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup small pitted green olives, halved
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/3 cup toasted sliced almonds
4 pieces pocketless pita bread or similar flat bread, each about 5-7 inches in diameter
1/2 cilantro leaves

1. Put 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with cumin and salt and pepper. Cook the chicken for 5 minutes, stirring so that it browns evenly.
2. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger and cook for 3-4 minutes, until the onion softens and turns light brown. Add the saffron stock, olives, and lemon rind and bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes.
3. Preheat the broiler.
4. Adjust the salt and pepper for the tagine if needed, stir in the almonds and reduce further so only a few tablespoons of liquid remain. Remove from the heat.
5. Brush one side of the bread with the remaining olive oil. Broil for a few minutes until it is lightly browned and slightly crisp.
6. Put each pita, crisp side down, on a 12-by-12-inch sheet of foil. Divide the chicken tagine among the 4 pieces of bread and sprinkle with cilantro leaves. Roll into a cone and secure the bottom by twisting the foil. Fold the top back to expose the top of the roll.

Personal Note: This is the first dish from this cookbook we've tried and we tried it tonight for dinner. Good sign! I think with this dish alone the book paid for itself in spades. This may well be the hands down most delicious thing I've ever made. No lie. Eat this and have a gastronomic orgasm. Seriously. It's extremely layered, with lots of subtle flowering on your palate of different undertones. And when you make it be prepared to have an incredible smelling kitchen; between the cumin-seasoned browning of the meat to the minced ginger to the lemon zest to the toasting of the almonds to the typical wonderful smell of that always-foundational step of cooking onions, your kitchen will smell better than anything you've ever known.

Like usual, the best way to get the most flavor out of the meat while browning it--a step that makes or breaks the flavor of most recipes that require it--is to get the cast iron really sizzling hot and then to cook the meat briefly (but at a very high temperature!). So take the recipe's first step with a grain of salt and brown the chicken the best way possible--hot (but not charred) and fast.

We used oval/rectangular sheets of naan and instead of broiling them we brushed them with oil as it says to and then put them two at a time on a flat cast iron griddle pan over moderately high heat to toast them. Then we each scooped some of what was in the deeper cast iron pan used to do the full dish onto our separate plates of naan and ate it with our hands (kind of scooping the contents up with the bread). If I was serving company then the recipe's directions for foil wrapping the rolls would make sense and I'd follow it faithfully.

It was SO GOOD. Yeah, likely the best thing I've ever made. So good I want to share it with everyone I meet, ha.

Labor intensively, we used the really good green olives from the market--the ones with pits in them. Only because they were what we had available leftover in the fridge. Yes, it was a huge pain to halve and pit each one, but I didn't really mind 'cause this recipe is tons o' prep work anyway and I'm the kind of person who loves that part of cooking (much more than the actual cooking, i.e., splatters and heat source step). Oh, and we omitted the cilantro 'cause yeah, I am not a fan. And used homemade stock (the recipe cites the guidelines for homemade stock elsewhere in the book) because yeah, we always have it on hand and it does make a big difference.

Yes saffron is expensive, but we are lucky and a downtown Indian grocery sells little bottles of it for surprisingly cheap (of course, it's likely not very high grade, and it comes from Spain. But we don't care, 'cause that's better than not having any at all :).

No comments: