May 17, 2006

Desert Flavours: Chicken Sahara

I like sunny weather as much as the next person, really, but I am also one of those who suffers easily in the heat. None-the-less, I find myself drawn to flavours and staples of hot-weather cuisine. Chicken, that staple that happily accepts all manner of rough-treatment from filleting to pan-frying, braising, poaching, roasting, grilling, or skewering (and surely more that I've left out) becomes a particularly useful canvas for taking your tastebuds on a journey.

My journey this time is to the north of Africa - using the lemon and olive combination from Senegal's Yassa au Poulet, and the cumin, turmeric and red chiles favoured in Morocco. This is Chicken Sahara (expired link removed --please see recipe in the comments below) a recipe that I highjacked, modified and drastically improved from a more expositorily named recipe in a collection from Cooking Light, and which fairly shrieks of sunwarmed sand and sharp and pungent flavours. It is feisty, but not dangerously so.

The cooking method is unusual - room-temperature liquid surrounds the chicken as it goes into the oven, uncovered. There, it sort of poaches, sort of braises, for an hour, at the end of which, the weirdly murky-looking sauce has transformed into a smooth, thickened, sunny yellow, lemony deliciousness.

Make more than you need. Leftovers re-heat beautifully, and the lemony sauce is fabulous on steamed carrots, asparagus, broccoli - you name it. If there's any sauce leftover, I just stir it right into the leftover couscous that inevitably gets served with this dish. Very tasty, very easy.


Bindu Vijayakumar said...

Hi Dawna,

Your African recipe seems to be mouth watering in the image. But bit not clear as you how you go about cooking it.

Dawna said...

Hello! Thanks for stopping by my blog. For the complete recipe, click the yellow text "chicken sahara" in the second paragraph, and you will go to a link for the complete recipe and directions.

Bindu Vijayakumar said...

hi dwana,

thats a cool way to cook chicken..

Dawna said...

Chicken Sahara

This Moroccan-flavoured dish is an adapation of a much more mundane and expositorily named Cooking Light recipe. There is a lot of spice, both in volume and intensity, so it's not for the weak of palate. It definitely conjures up the sense of a sun-drenched landscape, so it's perfect for cold weather dinners.

Serves 4
Total Prep & Cooking Time: 1 1/2 hours

4 chicken breasts or 8 thighs (boneless, skinless)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
20 green olives, sliced
1 1/3 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons flour
zest & juice of a lemon
1 tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Combine spices in a wide bowl. Carefully toss each piece of chicken in the spice mixture until it is a lovely, brick-red on all sides. Shake off excess spice mixture back into the bowl. Lay the pieces of chicken, rounded side up, in a lightly greased/spritzed 11x7" pyrex baking dish - they should just barely fit.

Lay the sliced olives evenly over the chicken pieces.

Combine the chicken stock (it must be cold or room temperature), flour, garlic, lemon juice and zest in measuring cup and whisk until smooth. Pour the liquid gently over the chicken and place, uncovered, in the oven for one hour. Periodically during cooking, stir the sauce gently so that it thickens evenly, spooning the sauce over the chicken pieces towards the end of cooking time.

Serve with rice or couscous and a green vegetable. Leftovers (should you be so lucky) reheat beautifully in the microwave at a medium power setting.