In the Mood for Soft Syrupy Oranges Sitting on Top of Warmly Spiced Chicken?
When I got it in my head to make this dish, I didn’t really know where I was going to begin. All I knew was that I wanted chicken with warm spices, oranges, and some briny olives and caper berries to balance out the sweet and warm flavors. As my thinking progressed, I ended up deciding to cook it in a tagine as I felt it would give me the moist and saucy texture I was going for.
While I knew I could simply throw some sliced oranges into the mix, I wanted more than that, so I began by cooking a couple of sliced oranges in a black cardamom infused sugar syrup. I let them cook for a while until the syrup got thick, put on the lid and let them sit until I was ready to use them to top the chicken. I was delighted to see that after sitting for an hour or so, they had completely absorbed the syrup and were soft and full of flavor.
While the oranges sat, I concentrated on the spice blend. I knew this is where the recipe would either succeed or fail. I ended up using a base of ras el hanout. This spice blend of cinnamon, cumin, coriander and allspice (among other things), seemed like a good place to begin to build my flavors. I added hot and sweet paprika, ground ginger, green cardamom, and a few other spices in order to come up with the flavor I was aiming toward.
After rubbing chicken thighs with some of the spice blend I browned them in a little oil, removed them from the skillet, added some browned ghee and sautéed a whole grated onion with some garlic and fresh ginger. After adding a little tomato paste, chicken stock, saffron and cider vinegar, I transferred it to a tagine, added the chicken, covered it and let it bake for about 25 minutes. I then added the caper berries, green olives, sliced dates and put it back in the oven for another 20 minutes.
I drizzled 2 teaspoons of orange blossom water over the chicken and sauce, topped it with the reserved oranges, chopped toasted almonds, and mint leaves. This was served with some simply steamed couscous in order to soak up some of that sauce. This ended up being even better than what I’d envisioned. While it isn’t a quick 30 minute meal, it was most definitely worth a couple of hours of my time. Sometimes, a dish requires a few extra steps in order for it to be all that you’d hoped. This is one of those.