Chicken-apricot tagine

Tonight’s recipe comes courtesy of Mark Bittman. It’s a tagine (Moroccan stew) with chicken, apricots, chickpeas, and couscous.

The short version: it took me 2 hours instead of 45 minutes; I burned my forearms with splattering oil; but it was very tasty.

The long version

A few preliminary notes:
1. I used boneless chicken thighs instead of bone-in chicken thighs, because I just couldn’t find any. It turned out fine regardless.
2. I went heavy on the onions and garlic. Next time, remember that for garlic, two cloves = 1 tablespoon.
3. Also went heavy on the chickpeas (a 540 ml can, about 2 1/4 cups) and the tomatoes (a 398 ml can, about 1 3/4 cups).
4. I replaced the bulgur with couscous, because that’s what I had on hand.
5. I think my stove runs hot. Next time, try it with the temperatures lower.
6. Coriander seeds are about 1:1 conversion rate for whole to ground. Cinnamon sticks are about 1 stick to 1 tsp ground.

And now, the play by play!

5:57 — Realize it’s a half-hour later than I wanted to start cooking dinner. Better get to that.
6:19 — The onions hate me. That’s why they’re making me cry.
6:27 — First time ever working with ginger. Note to self: peel ginger over the sink or a cutting board of something. Trying to peel over the garbage can just isn’t working.
6:41 — Wow, did I misjudge the amount of ginger in two little fingers. Figured it would be just about a teaspoon. Wound up with eight! Oh, well. Into the fridge it goes.
6:43 — Using my new spice grinder (a belated housewarming gift from my aunt and uncle) for the first time. How exciting! Now, how the heck do you figure out conversion rates…
6:53 — My plan of grinding up cinnamon sticks for ground cinnamon isn’t working. I have no ground cinnamon left. How the heck do I go about doing this?
6:57 — Thanks to Google, plan B worked. (Put it in a plastic bag, smash the bejeezus out of it with a large can, put the pieces in the spice grinder.)
7:09 — Finally finished prep. It took exactly one hour. I bet that doesn’t count towards the “45 minutes” cooking time. Sigh. I’d planned to be eating by now.
7:15 — Chicken’s in the pot. The oil is splattering everywhere. I hope that using boneless instead of bone-in chicken thighs doesn’t change the timing too much. Stupid splattering oil.
7:19 — Flipped the chicken. Sort of black on the bottom. Maybe not so long on the other side. Turned the heat down a bit. I hate splattering oil. Marc suggests we invest in a splatter shield.
7:23 — Chicken comes out, onions go in and brown almost immediately. Five minutes, my ass. More like 30 seconds! I wonder if my stove just runs hot.
7:24 — In go the spices, apricots, and tomato. Loosen up the brown bits with my wooden spoon.
7:25 — In go the chickpeas and chickpea liquid (exactly one cup, all that was in the can). It starts to bubble within a minute.
7:28 — Put back the chicken, turn the temperature down, cover. Breath a sigh of relief that the last fifteen minutes of splattering oil and craziness are over. Time to do a little cleaning.
7:32 — “Low” is too low to get a good simmer going. Turn the heat up to 3.
7:39 — By the way, what kind of a stupid instruction is “until the flavors begin to blend”? I mean, how the hell do you check that?
7:46 — In goes the couscous, about a cup more liquid, and salt and pepper. (I’d originally only put in a quarter-cup of liquid, because it looked really liquidy, but when I stirred it I realized I didn’t have enough.) Time to cut the parsley.
7:51 — I wonder if you’re supposed to use the parsley stems. Best err on the side of caution and cut them off.
7:55 — My parsley-chopping technique clearly leaves something to be desired.
7:59 — Tell Marc dinner’s almost ready. Set table.
8:01 — Time to eat. Much later than I planned for it to be, but it looks tasty.

8:20 — Lovely dinner. Actually turned out pretty well. Sit down and write up “Adventures in Cooking” post as Marc cleans up from dinner.

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