Another near dinner disaster! Weeknight dinners are always a little shaky – I usually get home when I’m ready to eat, having just come from the gym. So when I embark on a full on recipe (and not just a “throw all the leftovers in the fridge in a pan” kind of dinner) at that stage of hunger I can get a little frazzled and crabby. Throw in the fact that I cooked this on a Tuesday and you’ve got danger written all over it. You see, Tuesday is Biggest Loser night. I do not have a DVR and even if I did, I would still insist on watching my two hours of gluttonous, product-placement laden, gloriously lard-esque TV during air time. It’s a routine and I look forward to it every week.
It’s just when Tuesdays correspond to when something in the fridge needs to be cooked that night, or when there are simply no leftovers to chuck in a pan that it becomes like the Perfect Storm. Hungry, frazzled, and about 20 minutes to get all the prep work done before BL comes on. That was last night. Then to top it off, the chicken took a lot longer than I anticipated so I didn’t end up eating until after my show, at 9pm. But boyyyy did this hit the spot!
Roasted chicken is such a cheap way to get the most delicious tasting chicken dishes. You get a wonderful sauce made from all the spices and fat and the chicken is always so tender. You can also experiment easily with different spice mixes. Moroccan spices are in the same family as Middle Eastern spices, but have their own distinct combinations. Some heavily used spices are ginger, turmeric, cumin, pepper, and cinnamon. They’re all wonderfully rich together. I actually realized that I was out of powdered ginger (another source of near dinner-meltdown), but I made a few adjustments and I didn’t miss it one bit. The dates in this dish are utterly delicious. I love dried fruit in savory dishes; the shock of super sweet fruit against the salty rich meat and veggies is just the best.
Adding vegetables to the pot increases the cooking time for chicken. I’ve read that it’s about 20 minutes per pound of chicken at 350 degrees. So with my 3 1/2 pound chicken, I should have been looking at an hour and ten minutes. With the veggies that I put in the pot, though, it came out to be more like an hour and forty minutes. Just use a meat thermometer and you’ll get it right.
moroccan roasted chicken with dates
adapted from Bon Appétit, serves 4
1 3 1/2 pound roasting/fryer chicken
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
juice of two lemons
6 shallots, peeled and thickly sliced
6 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into 1 1/2 inch pieces
12 dates, pitted, halved
1 cup chicken broth
3 cinnamon sticks (or about 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger (I didn’t have this, but you should use)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
coarse sea salt and pepper
1/4 cup almonds, toasted, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, thin stems are okay
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Place chicken breast side down and cook for about 5 minutes, to brown the skin. Flip and cook for 5 minutes more on the underside. Squeeze lemons over chicken and stuff the cavity with the rinds. Remove from heat.
2. Scatter vegetables and dates around the chicken and pour broth in the pot. Drizzle remaining 1 tablespoon oil over chicken. Sprinkle spices, salt and pepper in the pot and on the chicken and nestle the cinnamon sticks amongst the broth and veggies. Cover and cook in the oven for about 55 minutes.
3. Raise oven temperature to 425 degrees. Remove cover from pot and cook for another 40 minutes, or until meat thermometer registers 180 degrees when inserted into the breast.