Sometimes, people misconstrue the terms healthy cooking or clean eating with “flavorless” and “lackluster.” But it does not have to be this way. And my cooking certainly never is. It is a rare day in my house that we do not eat healthily. Even our late night snacks (plate fulls of lean nitrate free turkey breast and tomato and cuke slices) tend to be quite delicious and healthy.
Let’s be honest, it’s tough to stay healthy and eat clean if your food tastes like overly processed cardboard. So I like to keep things spicy and exciting in our meal plans. Like all moms nowadays I do not have all the time in the world to cook anymore (sad…so very sad.) I do, however, have some pretty great standard recipes that I can always go back to and whip up in no time.
Initially my mother- in-law made this dish. (Try and imagine this with the best Russian accent) “Heere Mila trrry this. It iz new dish I saw on Russian televizion. Verry oold recipe, but very seeemple and delicious. They call it Morooocon chicken.” I tasted it. And smiled. It’s my mother-in-law…I am not upsetting her. I tasted sweetness and stringy chicken and that was it. I so wanted to like it. But it was lackluster. She is an amazing cook, but this for some reason was not hitting the spot. I am thinking it was just a cruddy recipe. It was decent…but it lacked some…SPARKLE. And I…well my dear friends…I have lots of sparkles.
I decided to truly make this a Moroccan style chicken, concentrating on all the fragrant spices of the region. Moroccan food has a great deal of bright flavors and intoxicating spices. I also wanted this to be something that I can whip up on a weeknight when I did not have much time. After a few tries and adjusting the spices and the cooking times I ended up with a dish that I am proud to call Moroccan. It has all the gorgeous colors and flavors to make our tummies rumble and our eyes gleam.
Being the wonderful daughter in law that I am, I brought it over for my MIL to try and she was flattered that I based my recipe on hers (based being the operative word here). She was instantly a fan and asked for the recipe. I told her to check the blog :)
NEWSFLASH: THIS IS VERY FREEZER FRIENDLY!
2 Pounds of Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs or Chicken
Breast; Cut into Large Pieces
¾ Cup Dried Apricots, Roughly Sliced
¾ Cup Dried Prunes, Roughly Sliced
1 Spanish Onion, Diced
3 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Cilantro, Roughly Chopped
Juice of One Lime
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
3 Garlic Cloves, Minced
1 One-Inch Piece of Ginger, Minced
1 Tablespoon Smokey Paprika
1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
⅛ Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
1 Teaspoon Cumin
1.5 Tablespoons Turmeric; The turmeric gives this dish its distinct yellow color
½ Teaspoon Sumac (optional)
½ Tablespoon Salt
1 Tsp Pepper
Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes
Preheat the oven to 450-degrees and oil up a medium sized casserole dish. Feel free to use a foil pan for easier cleanup.
We are going to start out with some chicken breast and boneless chicken thigh pieces cut up into large bite size pieces.
Place those pieces into your casserole pan (don't mind me, I apparently did not mind doing dishes and used a bowl instead.). Add you turmeric, nutmeg, cinnamon, paprika, cumin, minced ginger, minced garlic, salt, pepper, lime juice, balsamic vinegar and cilantro.
Toss and combine and let stand for at least 15-20 minutes or even overnight.
In the meantime, slice up some dried prunes and apricots. You do not need to get fancy. Just slice them up so they are similar in size.
Dice up an onion into medium dice.
Place about 1 tbsp of olive oil into a large pan and add in your onions. Go ahead and let the get nice and sweaty for about 3 minutes.
Now add in the sliced dried fruit, salt and pepper and a cup of water. This is going to do two things. 1. it will hydrate the fruit so they get beautiful and plump. And two it will make the sugars come out of the onions, allowing for an easier and faster caramalization. (note: I will be doing a demo soon on how to easily caramelize onions.)
Allow this mixture to boil until all the water is boiled out and the water has evaporated completely.
Now, add this mixture to your marinading chicken. Toss to combine, careful as the mixture is hot (you can of course cool the mixture, but I don't have that sort of time).
Place into the oven and bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes or until chicken is tender.
Garnish with some extra cilantro. I served this up with my favorite lemon infused couscous and it was a hit.