Chicken and Apricots

chicken and apricots

This chicken and apricots dish is one of the things I like to make that sends the people around my house just a little crazy. It’s a very good early summer dish that aromatizes the place and — usually on a cool rainy day — has people standing over the chicken with a spoon in their hand, just waiting to give it a taste.

I love to make this dish in part because it gives me a little extra time to do a little yard work or otherwise engage my fancies, but like any good braise, it also allows the chicken to cook to it’s fullest and deepest rich flavor. It literally falls apart on the fork. Truth is, I’m not entirely sure what even makes this dish fit for a picture. It really wants to fall apart the minute you touch it.

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Moroccan Chicken with Lentils

Moroccan Chicken with Lentils

After a fairly dry late summer, it rained last week — all week, in fact — and turned much cooler. So it seemed the perfect time to pull out the tagine, the North African version of a clay cooking pot, and get to work. I’ve made dozens of Moroccan chicken dishes over the years, but this one is different from most of the others because it includes red lentils. The lentils add a lot of protein to the recipe and give it the kind of satisfying bulk that’s perfect for a cool rainy day.

tagine

A Tagine

You don’t really need a tagine for this dish. A dutch oven (or maybe even a slow cooker) will work fine. I can’t say it actually enhances the dish in any way, but it does add some control during the cooking. The cone-shaped top has a small hole in it that allows the liquid to reduce slowly, eliminating the need to remember to remove the dutch oven cover during the last bit of cooking. You can find tagines online and if you do, get a good heavy heat diffuser. Cracking a tagine in the middle of cooking is no fun.

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Leg of Lamb Stuffed with Apricots

Leg of Lamb Stuffed with Apricots

I came across the original version of this leg of lamb stuffed with apricots maybe six or seven years ago, probably in a magazine in a waiting room somewhere, but I remember that at the time, it was so simple, I didn’t bother to pilfer the magazine or copy the recipe. I did make a note that it used something called ras al hanout. I couldn’t find it in any grocery, nor had online shopping reached the point then where finding such a thing was possible. So I improvised. Overtime, it got better with each preparation, but still didn’t have the flavor I imagined it should.

A year ago, or so, I finally decided to make my own authentic ras al hanout, and last week, tried this out again. The authentic spice blend got the lamb exactly where I wanted it to be. Despite an overnight marinade, the flavor is mild, and I’d say less “gamey” than what I find to be typical of lamb. Much of the Moroccan character of the dish, in fact, is concentrated in the apricots and is very aromatic. In place of heavily flavored meat there is this amazing aroma that envelopes the table when the lamb leg is sliced. 

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Apricot Breakfast Cake

This apricot breakfast cake is a light, almost spongecake, breakfast or coffee cake that’s easy. The texture comes mostly from the technique rather than the ingredients.

Generally, the recipe is equal parts (by weight) butter, sugar, flour and eggs. Add apricots (canned are more than fine for this, or you can, as I did, saute fresh apricots with a bit of butter and sugar to taste) a pinch of salt, and baking powder. Some lemon juice and lemon zest make it complete.

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