While dumpstering I get a surprising amount of dried fruits and nuts. Initially I thought I would take some apricots and figs and almonds and mix them with spices and brandy to make pan de higo, a Spanish fig cake I’ve made a couple times before. I still have a chunk in my freezer (it’s shelf stable, but after one batch got infested with bugs, I keep it in the freezer) from over a year ago. So I wanted to use some of that fruit to make something savory.
One type of dish that makes heavy use of dried fruit is the Moroccan tagine. “Tagine” refers to the conical ceramic pot it’s cooked in, but I don’t have one of those, so I used a frying pan with a lid. I’ve never actually eaten a tagine so I figure whatever difference that makes, I won’t know.
I started by coating some chicken drumsticks with a mixture of salt, dried cilantro, ginger, turmeric, black pepper, white pepper, cinnamon, Ras el Hanout and saffron roughly following a recipe by Christine Benlafquih of The Spruce Eats. I thought I didn’t have a cinnamon stick, so I added some at the beginning, same thing with the cilantro. If you’re wondering if I dumpstered saffron; no, all of these were store-bought spices except for the Himalayan pink salt (and I really ought to just buy a $0.50 can of salt instead of using that for everything). I’ve spent many years building up a large collection of spices to the point that they don’t quite fit in my kitchen anymore. The saffron was actually a free sample that came with an order of something else I bought from My Spice Sage. I also lightly toasted some almonds in olive oil.
Christine’s recipe looked very good, but seemed to be missing a few key steps: there’s no instructions on when to add the dried fruit or how to make the honey syrup. Maybe I should already know this, but again, I’ve never seen a tagine in my life. So I looked at a few other recipes and improvised. I started by frying the onion and garlic in a brown sugar cinnamon butter I dumpstered a few weeks ago and decided to just add the honey to the sauce directly when I added the fruit. After the onion and garlic, I added the chicken and some water and chicken bouillon (also store-bought).
In addition to the apricots, I added some diced preserved lemon and sliced dried figs, because I had both and they’re also common tagine ingredients.
The instructions said to remove and reserve some of the liquid after cooking the chicken on medium-low for an hour, but after an hour there was hardly any liquid left and there was no mention of what to do with that liquid after it was reserved. I flipped the chicken and added some extra water, instead, to give the apricots and figs something to soak up, and cooked for another half hour. I had probably had the heat on too high, or had cooked it too long. The instructions said I could cook the dish faster in conventional cookware but thought it was probably best to keep it slow, and didn’t really know how to adjust the time and temperature. As a result the chicken was a little dry, but still good. While it was cooking I made some yellow rice with garlic, turmeric, cumin and saffron.