Thursday, December 06, 2007

Taking a warm vacation out of this chilly weather with a full-flavored dinner...

Brrr... so the clouds vanished last night and the temperature plummeted to an icy -14 degrees by the time I woke up this morning (and this was not including the wind chill!). I thought Spike was going to have a mini heart attack when we let him out to do his business this morning... I think that was the fastest we have seen him move in a long time!

Sometimes I worry that the speedy dinners I've been making won't have enough time to develop flavor as they cook, but tonight's dinner proved to me that you don't need a long cook time for a well-seasoned dish. With flavors similar to what you might find in a Moroccan tagine, the Moroccan Chicken over Couscous with Almonds and Raisins recipe we made tonight uses a few short cuts to speed up the preparation.

After diced onions have softened in a couple tablespoons of melted butter, paprika, smoky cumin, sweet cinnamon, hot Madras curry powder and a dash of cayenne are stirred in and left to briefly toast and allow their flavor to bloom. You have your choice of chicken to use - if you want a more rich flavor, use chicken thighs - if you're looking for something a little lighter, you can use chicken breasts. If you go with the latter, you will just need to reduce the simmer time slightly. Once the meaty chunks of chicken have been added, broth and a can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes (one more layer of flavor!) are added and the skillet is covered, trapping moisture inside, to finish cooking the chicken through. This method leaves you with chicken that is moist and tender even if you decide to use very lean chicken breast.

Moroccan Chicken over Couscous with Almonds and CurrantsAs this is a very saucy dish, a fragrant bed of couscous is prepared to serve the chicken over and soak up the enticing juices. The same spices as above (minus the cayenne) are again toasted in a pat of butter - once their aromas become known, broth, whole wheat couscous and golden raisins are added. After the mixture comes to a boil, the pot is covered and the heat is turned off - the couscous absorbs the broth and grows into a tremendous pile of fully-cooked pearled pasta in minutes. Between the tomatoes, chicken and plump golden raisins, there are plenty of soft textures happening - for a contrast to those, sliced almonds are toasted and sprinkled over the top for a crunchy bite. I didn't have a chance to run to the market today to get any, but if you happen to have some, a scattering of fresh chopped cilantro would be an ideal garnish to liven the dish up with a punch of color.


  1. That looks fantastic! Adding it to my list for next week.

  2. Your dinner sounds so flavorful and good! And, yes, it was SO cold this morning. My car had trouble starting...and it is supposed to be even colder tomorrow morning!


  3. Thanks Jen!

    Courtney - Thankfully we have a garage, but I remember living downtown a few years ago and having to try and get the car started on the side of the street!