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.