April 27, 2010

Cookin' it up...Congo Style (Chicken Tagine and Plantains)

I've got to hand it to my mom. She always made dinner. Even if it was 8:30 at night before all of our activities were done and everyone was off work, we still all sat down and ate a meal together. But the woman (and she'll admit this too!) is not an adventurous chef. The most ethnic we ever got in our house was tacos and spaghetti- if you could even consider those ethnic. I am pretty sure I had never even tried Chinese food until I was a senior in high school and could drive myself there. I turned out okay (I think)- so there's no harm in being a meat and potatoes kind of family. But I wanted my kids to at least be exposed to lots of different kinds of foods. Even if they say they hate it, they at least have had the opportunity to have something different on their plate. Noah won't eat anything. Miles will scarf down whatever you put in front of him and Sadie falls somewhere in the middle.

So tonight on the menu...Chicken Tagine, a Congolese dish. (From what I've gathered, chicken tagine can be made for many cultures. The difference in the dish from culture to culture is the combination of spices.) I served it over rice with black beans (Miles' favorite!) and fried plantains. I have to say it was fantastic! I think I'm going to have to work this recipe into the regular dinner time rotation. Kamron, my dad and I all agreed that the chicken tasted like something you would order in a really good restaurant. And that is saying something- because I am not that great of a cook. I can bake like nobody's business but when it comes to cooking, my microwave is usually my best friend. I love seeing pictorial food posts on other blogs I read, so I thought I would give it a whirl with this recipe. I see those posts and I get inspired to try something a little different. Only I got so excited about actually serving the chicken tajine, that I forgot to take a picture of the finished product! And there was not a drop leftover to take a snap of either.

Chicken Tagine with Plantains

Here's what you'll need:

Chicken cut into pieces (for the 5 of us I used 3 boneless, skinless breasts)
1 large clove of garlic- minced
4 tbsp olive oil for pan-frying Chicken and mixing marinade
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4tsp ground ginger
A pinch of saffron- I am too cheap to buy saffron, but if you've got it throw it in
a tiny dash of cinnamon
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp coriander (optional)
2 onions, finely chopped
2 cups chicken broth or stock
salt, to taste
1 lemon (optional)
1 cup of okra or olives (we don't really like either one, so we just left it out!)

For plantains:
3-4 plantains (for 5 people)
cooking oil

In a large bowl or a Ziploc bag, mix 2 T of your olive oil and your spices to make a marinade. Throw in the raw chicken and mix well. Put in the refrigerator and leave to marinade for a couple of hours or overnight if you are one of those super prepared kind of people.

After you have marinated the chicken, put it in a skillet with the remaining olive oil until it is browned all over.

Add in the onions and stirfry for a few minutes until the onions start to caramelize.

Once the onions start to cook down, add the chicken broth. Heat to boiling for a minute or two, then reduce the temperature, cover the pan and simmer for 30-40 minutes. You may want to stir this once or twice in the process. Stir in okra or olives for the last 10 minutes of cooking if you so desire.

While the chicken is simmering, you can make your plantains. If you've never fried plantains before, you'll want to get them pretty ripe. The ones I bought were a little too green. (If you have some really green ones- check out Corey's blog for a great recipe for Haitian benan pese) Also- you do not peel a plantain like a banana. It just won't work so well! The best way to peel a plantain is to cut each end off with a sharp knife and then run a split all the way from end of the plantain to the other. Then try to strip the peel off in big chunks. Plantain skin is really thick and tough to peel! You'll want to cut the plantains on the diagonal so they have more surface area when you cook them. I like them about 1/4 inch thick.

Put them into a hot skillet full of oil. I use canola oil, but vegetable, palm, peanut or whatever oil you have on hand will also work. Put them in a single layer in the skillet. Unless you use a crazy amount of oil, you'll need to flip them over midway through. You will want to cook them until they are brown and crispy on the outside. Drain them on paper towels. We like them with way too much salt sprinkled on top.

After your chicken has simmered and most of the liquid is gone, you are ready to serve your dish. You'll know the chicken is ready when the remaining liquid is more like a glaze than a soup! I served it on top of white rice with a side of black beans. If you'd like- you can squeeze some fresh lemon juice on top of the chicken for a little extra kick. It is super delish! Enjoy!

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