18 August 2006

Tajine of chicken, tomato, and honey

Back in the spring we decided to buy a tajine, which is a North African cooking dish, so that we could start doing that kind of cooking. Well, it's a long story, but I broke the tajine dish. Don't ever try to cook on the stove top in a terra cotta dish.

This is a tajine. The lid is a chimney but is shaped
so that steam condenses and falls back into the dish
as the food cooks.

But that accident didn't stop us from cooking the dishes called tajines. This morning I made a tajine of turkey, tomatoes, onions, honey, and sesame seeds. I used ingredients I had in the house (tomatoes from the garden) and based my dish on a recipe I found in a book called — what else? — Tajines (© 2005, Hachette Livres, Hachette Pratique, Paris). The recipe in the book is called Poulet aux tomates et au miel — chicken with tomatoes and honey.

Here's my version of the recipe:

Turkey with tomatoes, onions, and honey

1 turkey thigh/leg portion (or about 2½ lbs. of chicken)

3 tbs. olive oil
4½ lbs. tomatoes
2 medium onions
1 shallot
salt and pepper to taste
½ tsp. ginger
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. cumin
½ tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
a pinch or so each of turmeric, coriander, and cardamom
2 tbs. toasted sesame seeds

Peel and seed the tomatoes. The easiest way to do this is to drop the tomatoes into boiling water for 30 seconds or so and then transfer them to a bowl cold water. The peel splits and comes right off. Cut the tomatoes into big chunks and remove the seeds and liquid so all you have left is the nice tomato pulp.

Peel and slice the onions and the shallot.

Heat the olive oil in a pan and brown the turkey (or chicken) pieces for 5 to 10 minutes. You can use chicken thighs or drumsticks or a mixture of the two, or you can use a turkey leg as I did. Once the chicken or turkey is browned on all sides, remove and reserve the pieces.

Put the sliced onions and shallot in the pan with the remaining olive oil and let them cook a minute or two. Add more olive oil if you need to. Then add the tomatoes and all the spices (not the sesame seeds) to the pan. Stir everything together well and put the chicken or turkey pieces back on top of the tomato mixture. Cook covered on medium heat for 45 minutes or so.

After 45 minutes, remove the cover and let the sauce reduce on medium-low heat. Be careful not to scorch it; stir frequently. After 30 minutes or so remove the chicken or turkey from the sauce and keep the pieces warm.

Stir the honey into the tomato sauce, which should be well thickened. Let it cook with the honey for two or three minutes.

Meanwhile, toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet if they aren't already toasted.

Pour the tomato sauce over the chicken or turkey pieces. Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds over it all. Serve hot with rice or couscous or pasta.

The honey gives the spicy tomato sauce just the right amount of sweetness, and the toastiness of the sesame seeds goes really well with it. I like the heat of the cayenne pepper, but you could do without it if you wanted.

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