Are you like the majority of Americans who only eat apples as a raw snack or in sweet dishes? If yes, you’re not alone – only a few years ago, I was the same.
More recently, I’ve taken cue from other cultures that use apples in savory dishes, much like one would use a potato – apples add a tart and sweet dimension to soups, stews and salads.
Last fall, I wrote about the Moroccan and North African cookery and how they use fruit such as apples, pears, quinces, apricots and raisins for savory dishes. This chicken and apple tagine is a twist of the Moroccan Lamb and Pear Tagine I posted. Of course, you could easily substitute pears or use both.
Although I still haven’t bought a tagine (the cooking vessel), this dish is a tagine – a reference to the rich Moroccan stew. The chicken version has more veggies (carrots, zucchini, and potatoes) and garbanzo beans. This is pure comfort food, especially when paired with couscous.
October is national apple month – so try apples in a savory dish. What’s your favorite non-sweet apple dish?
Tidbits on Apples:
- In 2004, U.S. per capita total apple consumption was 50.4 pounds per person, according to the U.S. Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. For fresh fruit, Americans eat 18.6 pounds of apples per person, second to bananas.
- The high pectin and malic acid in raw apples are good for digestion and elimination. Leave the skin on for extra nutritional benefits. The flavonoids found in apples are believed to help prevent cancer.
- The acid content of apples makes them a natural breath freshener.
Moroccan Chicken & Apple Tagine
Serves 4 to 6
The sautéed apples are the special ingredient in this dish. For presentation purposes, I prefer to have them in large quarters or sixths, but if you are more practical you can cut into 2 inch chunks.
8 chicken thighs, skin removed (optional debone)
2 tablespoons oil, olive oil or vegetable
1 onion, chopped small
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon saffron*, pulverized, optional
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 – 2 1/2 cups chicken stock or water
2 cups (or 1 15 oz can-drained) cooked chick peas
3 large carrots, peeled and diced 2 inch pieces
1 large potato, diced 1 1/2 inch pieces
2 small zucchini, diced 2 inches pieces, optional
1 cup fresh or frozen peas, optional
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
3 tart apples (Granny Smith, Jonathan, etc.)
*Saffron adds an earthy dimension to the flavors of this dish. Some describe it as floral, while others say it is musky. You can choose to omit it and the dish will still be delicious.
- If using saffron, pulverize and steep in about 2 tablespoons hot water. Set aside.
- If using deboned chicken, cut it into 2 to 3 inch chunks. Generously season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat a heavy deep skillet or Dutch oven on medium heat; when the pan is hot, add the oil and brown the chicken. When chicken is browned (not cooked throughout), remove and set aside. In the same pot, add the onions and more oil if needed; stir until onions become translucent. Next add the ginger, cinnamon, and cayenne, stirring frequently for about 1 minute. Add the steeped saffron, salt and pepper; stir constantly for about one minute until spices are distributed. Return the chicken to the pot and stir. Add 2 cups water, carrots, potatoes and chick peas. (Note: if you prefer your tagine with more sauce add an extra 1/2 cup to 1 cup of water).
- Bring contents to a low boil; cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. If using zucchini, add it at the 30 minute mark. Otherwise, let chicken tagine simmer for about 50 minutes total or until meat is cooked throughout and vegetables are tender.
- Wash the apples, core and quarter (or sixth) them. Do Not Peel. (The skin will help keep them whole.) In a separate large skillet on medium high heat, melt butter. When butter starts to bubble place the sliced apples cut side down in the skillet. Sauté until they become slightly golden and caramelized; repeat with the other cut side. Do not sauté the apples’skin side. When done (the apples should be softened through but not falling apart), remove from heat and place on a plate, skin side down. Sprinkle each with cinnamon and sugar. Keep warm.
- When the chicken tagine is ready, serve hot over couscous with the apples arranged beautifully on top.