Sunday, January 24, 2010

It's Time for Payback

Whenever Matt visits my family, he makes a point of cooking them dinner at least one of the nights. Tonight, he and I orchestrated a Thank You feast. The two-course meal was one of the best savory things we've cooked together in a while. The salad and the main dishes weren't part of the same theme, but the flavor profiles of each were amazing. I must say, this was one of those meals I tasted a few times while preparing, but I had no idea it would turn out this good.

To start, we served baked goat cheese atop a bed of salad greens tossed with red wine-chive vinaigrette. To follow was Moroccan chicken breast and drumstick served with almond-cranberry cous-cous. The chicken dish was akin to a curry, although not in flavor but in composition. The flavors were rich, bold, and clean. Also, a few months ago, I started preserving lemons. They had been curing for at least 8 weeks by tonight, and their addition to this dish gave it an indescribable complexity. Not quite sour, not quite salty, strangely rich, I urge everyone to try to cure their own lemons.
Below is the recipe for the Moroccan Chicken with Almond-Cranberry Cous-Cous. I looked to Cooks Illustrated as well as for guidance with the recipes.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 drumsticks
2 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
4 quarters preserved lemon rinds, sliced lengthwise, then chopped crosswise
1 1/4 t paprika
1/2 t cumin
1/4 t cayenne
1/2 t ginger
1/4 t coriander
1/4 t cinnamon
squirt honey
2 c chicken broth
2 carrots, sliced thinly
1/2 c halved, pitted green olives
cilantro to garnish

In a large pot, brown the chicken, two minutes on each side, in 1 T olive oil. Place it on a plate, out of the way. Add remaining oil to pot, and saute onions and garlic. Add spices and preserved lemon, stir regularly, and cook for about 5 minutes. Add honey and broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low, add carrots, chicken pieces, and simmer 15 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken from pot, set aside under foil. Add olives, and raise heat to thicken liquid in pot. Cook about 5 minutes. Return chicken to pot, add cilantro. Serve atop Almond-Cranberry Cous-Cous.

Almond-Cranberry Cous-Cous

3 T butter
2 c cous-cous
1/2 c onion, chopped
3/4 c dried cranberries
2 c chicken broth
2 c water
1/2 c toasted sliced almonds
juice from 1 small lemon

Saute cous-cous in 1 T butter until lightly browned. Pour cous-cous into a bowl and set aside for later.
Saute onion in remaining butter. Add cranberries and then add liquids. Raise heat and bring to boil. When fully boiling, pour contents of saucepan into the bowl of cous-cous. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 15 min. Add almonds and lemon juice, and fluff with fork.

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