Tagine de Poulet

I remember the first time I ever tried couscous.  I was a freshman in college (Go Blue Hens!) and I had taken the train to Philadelphia to visit my friend Yasmine at the University of Pennsylvania. Most of my memories of that trip are pretty fuzzy some 20 years later.  But I remember being envious of the old buildings on the campus, especially Yasmine’s dorm.  She had this cool room with tons of character while I had a cinder block throw back to the cold war.  I also vaguely remember trying to catch the eye of the cute, presumably smart, boys at a party.  And there may have been an outfit completely inappropriate for walking back to her room late at night in the snow.

So how does couscous fit into this story?  Before going to the Penn party, Yasmine and I headed out for dinner.  Now I know I have a somewhat faulty memory but I swear that what I’m going to say next is true.  We ate dinner at Urban Outfitters.  How can I be so sure of that?  A) Because I thought it was completely bizarre that we were having dinner in a store.  B) Because I decided to try something new and ordered couscous for the first time in my young life.  C) And I didn’t like it.  I don’t remember why, but I distinctly remember that it was not an enjoyable experience.  But to this day, when I think of couscous, I think of Urban Outfitters.

It took me years but I gave couscous another shot and learned that it wasn’t as bad as I remembered.  As a matter of fact, it is lovely when you serve it topped with  Chicken Tagine.  Or, as it was titled in David Lebovitz’s book, Tagine de Poulet.

Despite furious Googling, I can not find anything on the web that corroborates my story that there was ever a restaurant inside of Urban Outfitters in Philly.  So you’ll have to take my word for it.  I do know for a fact that there was a visit to Urban Outfitters and there was couscous for dinner.  Were they two completely separate parts of the trip?  It was a long time ago and there were adult beverages consumed that night.  Perhaps all of that has made for one big memory mash-up.

I’d ask Yasmine but I lost touch with her after she moved to Australia.  Even in this day of Facebook and Classmates.com, some people are just off the grid.  Yasmine, if by some chance the Universe guides your browser to this post, click on that Contact BAH button at the top of the page…I’d love to hear from you.

Chicken Tagine with Apricots

Adapted from David Lebovitz, The Sweet Life In Paris

BAH Note: You may wish to wear food safe gloves when you toss the chicken with the spice mixture.  Tumeric is BRIGHT YELLOW and can stain your fingers and nails for a day or two even with vigorous hand washing.  Alternately, you could put the spices into a plastic bag, add the chicken pieces, and shake to coat them in the spices.  If using boneless chicken thighs, start checking for doneness after about 45 minutes of cooking.

  • 4 ounces dried apricots
  • 8 bone in chicken thighs, skins removed
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground tumeric
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cans chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • juice of one lemon

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Put the apricots in a bowl, cover completely with boiling water, and set them aside.

Combine your spices and salt in a large bowl.  Add the chicken pieces and coat them completely in the spices.

Melt your butter in a dutch oven or large pot set over medium heat.  Working in batches, cook the chicken for about 3 minutes on each side then transfer it to a plate.  Add the onion to the pot and cook until translucent.  Add the chicken broth to the pot, return the chicken pieces, and bring to a boil.  Transfer to the oven and bake for 60 to 90 minutes or until the chicken is completely cooked.

Remove the pot from the oven, skim any accumulated fat from the top, and carefully transfer the chicken to a platter.  Cover the platter with foil and set aside.

Place the pot on the stove, add the honey and lemon juice.  Drain the liquid from the apricots and add them to the pot.  Cook over medium high heat until the sauce is reduced by a third.  Taste for seasoning and serve the chicken and sauce accompanied with rice or couscous.

{printable recipe}

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18 Responses to Tagine de Poulet

  1. Brooke says:

    Ate in a store… you pre-partied, didn’t you?

    • Wendi says:

      Brooke, you know there were pre-social activities going on…all without social planning forms. Of course, these are things which I now need to say, in my most adult voice, are not acceptable. It’s a whole do as I say not as I did thing.

  2. Lan says:

    ok, now i am DYING to try this, but in a tagine, that i don’t own yet but will have to convince D to get. are the apricots necessary, could i possibly use another dried fruit instead? and i love old college stories almost as much as i love gma stories!

    PS. love the new comment area section part thing.

    • Wendi says:

      Lan, you definitely don’t NEED a tagine. Lord knows it would hardly ever get used at my house. A good dutch oven will do you just fine. I’m sure you could use other dried fruit if apricot isn’t your thing. Maybe dried plums? With a few dried figs thrown in for good measure?

      I had no idea WordPress had upgraded my comments interface. Looks all fancy doesn’t it.

  3. JenniferA says:

    I can’t help you here – I’ve never been to any Urban Outfitters, never mind one with a restaurant. I do like couscous though and I fondly remember making this same menu at a hobby cooking class. There wasn’t any drinking or cute boys though do it is easier to remember. 🙂

  4. Jenna says:

    Mmm, I love tagine, and I love couscous! I’m sorry your first experience with couscous wasn’t good.
    When I studied abroad in Paris they served couscous ALL THE TIME at the university cafeteria, so I always associate it with France.

    • Wendi says:

      Jenna, isn’t it interesting how we make these associations in our minds between food and places? The dining hall at my college certainly did not serve quite so interesting fare. But we had a burger bar at Delaware so I was pretty happy and I can’t remember much about the dining hall at UMBC.

  5. Funny…even the idea of couscous never did anything for me. So tiny…so not appealing. Then I saw a recipe for using pearl couscous (sometimes called Israeli couscous) and I was hooked…line and sinker. I thought maybe I would give the ‘regular’ stuff another shot but it’s not my thing. If you’ve not had the pearl couscous just think of it a super, huge, ginormous version…oh, and 1 that doesn’t remind you of grit. 🙂

    That being said…your dish is fabulous and uses spices I’m learning more and more how to put together. I’ll make it and I know what I’m serving it over!

    • Wendi says:

      Barbara, we occasionally indulge in some pearl couscous. It works quite well with saucy, stewy dishes like this.

      I definitely encourage you to dive deeper into the world of spices. I’ve got a recipe for turmeric chicken that really needs to get pulled out of my folder. Soon.

      • Joanne says:

        Wendi — you need to pull that turmeric chicken recipe out for us all soon. Sounds wonderful. We have turmeric in our spices collection, but rarely use it. We use curry powder all the time, which includes turmeric, but our turmeric container is still full! Help.

        • Wendi says:

          Joann, I will put the turmeric chicken on the menu after I get back from Florida. Which means it will post sometime around Thanksgiving ; )

  6. Ann D. says:

    Keep the rinds handy after juicing the lemons. If you get turmeric-stained hands, you can rub the insides of the lemon on your fingers and most stains will disappear, even under fingernails.

  7. Adryon says:

    I’m notorious for staining our counters and my fingers with tumeric.
    This dish does sound lovely with the combination of the spices with honey and dried fruit. I could use a helping right now.

  8. Good story Wendi (Mmm, there may have been a totally inappropriate out fit for wearing walking home late in the snow). Too funny. Hope you find Yasmin, funny how people disappear out of your life in this connected world isn’t it. Now about the couscous., glad you’ve made friends with it all these years later…, I love it, so many dishes it works with.

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