Sweet tart apricots combine with plump juicy olives in this Moroccan inspired dish. It’s quick enough for a weeknight but is special enough to serve to guests. The blend of Moroccan inspired spices, cumin, coriander, cinnamon and ginger give the dish a wonderful aroma. Toasting your own spices brings out the flavor even more.
Smoked paprika or pimenton de la Vera is not the paprika that many of us have been cooking with for years. Pimenton originates from the La Vera region of southwest Spain. Chilis are smoke dried over fires that are kindled with the local oak logs. The dried pepper can range from sweet (dulce) to hot (picante). This recipe uses the sweet version that has the mildest amount of heat.
Cerignolas are my olives of choice in this dish. I can usually find them at the supermarket olive bar at Wegmans. Cerignolas are a large, meaty olive that originate from the town of Cerignola in the province of Puglia, Italy. They are milder in flavor because they are cured in lye, yes, like drain cleaner lye, there is a recipe here. I prefer the green Cerignola but they also come in black and red. The red color is the result of food coloring and never seemed quite natural to me. Cerignolas always come with the pit. To remove the pit, place olives on a cutting board and whack lightly with the side of a chef’s knife. The pit pulls out easily.
Don’t over plump your apricots. Five minutes is long enough for just purchased dried apricots, any longer may turn the apricots to mush. The apricot balsamic vinegar is a worthwhile addition to the dish. It adds a richness and nicely compliments the flavors in the dish. Serve with couscous and a green vegetable.
Moroccan Chicken with Apricot-Olive Relish
adapted from a recipe in Food and Wine Magazine
Serves three or two with leftovers
- 2t cumin seeds
- 1t coriander seeds
- 2T honey
- 2T apricot balsamic vinegar (if not using, increase honey to 3T)
- 1/4c canola oil plus 1T canola oil
- 1T grated fresh ginger
- 3T fresh lemon juice
- 1 clove minced garlic
- 1/2t cinnamon
- 1t smoked Spanish paprika or sweet pimenton de la Vera
- 1t kosher salt
- 1/2t freshly ground black pepper
- 6 chicken thighs on the bone, with skin (about 2 to 2 1/4 lb)
- 1c dried apricots
- boiling water
- 2 medium thinly sliced shallots
- 1/2 cup pitted green olives, such as Cerignola or Picholine
- 2T chopped cilantro
- Preheat oven to 375F
- Toast cumin and coriander in a small saute pan over medium heat until slightly browned and fragrant. Remove from heat, cool and grind in spice grinder or small food processor.
- In a bowl, whisk the honey, apricot vinegar, 1/4c canola oil, lemon juice, grated ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, smoked paprika, cayenne, salt and pepper. Arrange the chicken in one layer in a glass or ceramic baking dish. Reserve 1/4 cup of marinade and pour the rest over the chicken. Turn to coat pieces. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours, turning once.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl, pour boiling water over the apricots to cover and let stand until plump, about 6 minutes.
- Remove chicken from marinade. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over medium high in a large saute pan. Working in batches so as not to crowd the pan, brown the chicken well all over, about 3 minutes per side, transferring each batch to a plate.
- Return chicken to the baking dish, cover with foil and bake for about 25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
- In the same skillet, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil. Add the shallots and cook over moderate heat until softened and slightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the apricots, olives and reserved marinade and bring to a simmer. Cook over moderately high heat until the marinade is thickened and glazes the apricots and olives, about 2 minutes. Stir in the cilantro.
- Transfer chicken to plates, top with apricot olive relish and serve.