I had trouble with the color of this dish–the flavor was a lot richer and more vibrant than the pictures imply. Perhaps it would have been prettier with quince, the first choice of the recipe author (Joyce Goldstein), but I figured why hunt down a flown-in quince when I still have local apples? (And truthfully here is where I confess I have no idea what a quince even looks like.) Goldstein also recommended using pomegranate molasses to intensify the color, but I did not have any.
This tagine recipe (cooked in a Dutch oven) was taken from Saffron Shores: Jewish Cooking of the Southern Mediterranean, by Joyce Goldstein, a book my sister bought for me. Those of us who grew up with mainly Ashkenazi Jewish friends (Jews from Eastern Europe) in the post-Israel world especially forget how much Jewish culture influenced the food in North Africa. (I mention Israel because as far as I can tell after the creation of Israel the vast majority of those Jews left North Africa and moved to Israel, although active Jewish communities remain, especially in Moroccco.) If you mostly think of potato pancakes, mandelbrot and matzo ball soup when you think of Jewish food, then this book will be a pleasant surprise (not because that other food is not wonderful but just because it is amazing how much more is out there). This tagine made with quinces in Algeria is regarded as ideal Rosh Hashanah food, but I call it ideal winter food anytime and have made it with the last of this year’s Fuji apples.
- 2 lbs crisp apples, peeled, sliced, and sprinkled with apple cider vinegar to prevent browning (if you are using primarily sweet apples, then add a tad more vinegar)
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 4-5 lbs chicken pieces (or 1 chicken cut up), bone-in and skin-on, patted dry and sprinkled with salt and pepper
- 3 large onions, sliced
- ½ t freshly ground nutmeg
- 1 T cinnamon (I used ceylon--use 2 t if you use cassia)
- ¼ cup water
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 325 F.
- Heat the oil over high heat in a medium-large Dutch oven. Brown the chicken pieces on all sides, and then remove to a bowl and set aside. Either add more olive oil as needed or drain off the excess fat--whichever you think is best (traditionally would be made with more fat but I tend to drain some off). Turn the heat down to medium and add the onions with a pinch of salt and sauté until caramelized, 15-20 minutes. Stir occasionally--if they start to scorch you can deglaze with a little apple cider vinegar or water and turn the heat down a bit.
- Stir in the spices and cook, stirring, an additional 5 minutes. Do not let the spices burn. Add the chicken back into the pot with a ¼ cup of water. Bring to a boil, cover with a heavy lid and place in the oven for 30 mins.
- In the meantime prepare the apples. At the end of the 30 minutes, take the pot out and add the apples to the dish. Replace the lid and return to the oven for another 15-30 minutes, until the apples have softened without becoming mushy and the chicken is cooked through and quite tender. It will not fall off the bone as though cooked in a slow cooker, however. Salt and pepper to taste, and add more cinnamon if desired. Serve over couscous, rice or potatoes.
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