If New Year’s is about making new resolutions, then the month before New Year’s is the perfect time to be crossing things off the bucket list, no?
For some reason, over this past year I’ve become increasingly obsessed with hosting a dinner party. Not a potluck like all the holiday parties my friends or family would host, but a full-on dinner party where I cook and bake everything. (Part of me is admittedly baffled by how downright domestic I’ve become – this the girl who used to live off convenience stores and ramen – while the larger part of me embraces this new part of my identity full force…it’s no coincidence that almost every gift I’ve gotten for my birthday or Christmas this year has been related to the kitchen.)
One of my favorite parts of living in New York City is how incredibly diverse it is. Working at the hospital I truly meet patients and coworkers from all sorts of backgrounds with all sorts of stories. It’s crazy how I might not speak a word of Russian but can still connect with a Russian immigrant and her daughter over our shared experiences as an immigrant family. Of course, this diversity translates into the amazing breadth of restaurants showcasing food from every culture. I love being introduced to new ingredients and flavors, and I love to introduce them to my friends in turn. On the flip side, one of my least favorite parts of living in the city is my kitchen. Let’s just say it’s about the size of my bathroom and I’ve resorted to storing my copious amounts of flour in the closet.
Visiting home in SoCal suburbia for the holidays offered the perfect venue to finally make my Around the World dinner party dream come true. The menu featured some of my favorite dishes from various cuisines, from Peruvian Pescado a lo Macho to Joanne Chang’s (Flour) version of Boston Cream Pie. I even tried my hand at ratatouille again, this time using Thomas Keller’s recipe making the pepper-tomato sauce from scratch (though apparently this version of ratatouille is technically called Confit Byardi) – tip, investing in a cheap mandolin makes cutting the thin slices so much easier and prettier! And of course after all the cooking was done, the best part was relaxing with old friends whom I haven’t seen in literally half a decade but still manage to pick up our conversation from where we left off.
The best compliment a chef can receive is clean plates, and I’m glad to say that the entire menu seemed well received. I was especially glad to see everyone’s particular enthusiasm toward my interpretation of Chicken Tagine – I have a lot of fond memories surrounding tagine as it’s become somewhat of a tradition for one of my best friends (currently residing in Boston) and I to get dinner at a wonderful Moroccan place in East Village whenever she visits New York. I still remember the first time I ever tasted their chicken tagine, that first bite of tender, juicy, richly spiced goodness…that day I became determined to try and recreate the experience in my own kitchen.
If you are ever hosting a dinner party, I highly recommend having at least one slow-cooked dish on the menu. Not only is it easy to prepare ahead and serve warm, it’s almost impossible to overcook and certain to garner rave reviews with its signature fall-off-the-bone goodness. Preparing ahead is key for a successful dinner party, as I quickly learned this past week – between 4 last-minute RSVPs, two broken stove burners, and scrambling to find a menu to satisfy both seafood allergies and pescatarians alike, the only reason why I made it through was by cooking and baking everything the day before or morning of.
This recipe for chicken tagine from Epicurious was everything I was looking for – “mmm”-worthy explosion of flavors and textures, a cinch to throw together and make ahead, and easy to adjust for either a solitary but delicious dinner alone or to please a crowd of 10+. I did make a few adjustments. For example instead of taking apart a whole chicken, I opted for using chicken thighs and drumsticks to easier adjust for number of servings. I also find that using less liquid than the recipe called for allowed for a thicker stew – though it might not seem like enough liquid at first, believe me that after a few minutes the juices from the chicken will be more than enough to supplement. I also drastically reduced the amount of oil used for browning the chicken and the almond garnish – totally unnecessary as dark meat will certainly be juicy enough without additional oil in the stew.
Whether cooking alone, for your family, or for a big party, try something new next time and give this recipe a shot. I guarantee a foolproof, amazing meal on your table in less than an hour.
adapted from Epicurious
makes 4-6 servings
egg free/dairy free
vegan options available
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- olive oil for cooking, ~2 tablespoons
- 4-6 chicken thighs/legs (about 1 lb), skin-on and bone-in
- *if making vegan, substitute chicken with chickpeas or tofu or both
- 1 medium red onion, halved then sliced
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 5 fresh cilantro
- 5 fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1/4 cup low sodium low fat broth (chicken or vegetable)
dried fruit glaze
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 cinnamon stick
- ½ cup apricots or golden raisins or both
- 1/2 cup water if using apricots, 1/4 cup water if using golden raisins
- olive oil for cooking, ~1 teaspoon
- 1/3 cup blanched almonds, either slivered or whole
- Mix together all ingredients for the spice rub and coat the chicken well – be sure to get under the skin.
- Heat oil on medium-high in a tagine or clay pot (a skillet or pot will do too). Brown the chicken, skin-side down first, about 4-6 minutes each side (if using tofu or chickpeas to make vegan, prepare your ingredients per usual). Transfer to a plate – I just use the same bowl used for the spice rub.
- In the tagine/clay pot/skillet, cook onions until translucent and soft. Add garlic and cook for a few more minutes. Add the cilantro, parsley, and broth, then re-add the chicken. Cover and simmer for at least 20 minutes. (If using tofu or chickpeas to make vegan, skip the cover+simmer step and instead skip straight to simmering uncovered).
- While chicken is cooking, simmer honey, water, apricots/golden raisins, and cinnamon stick uncovered until dried fruit is tender and the liquid has been reduced to a glaze.
- Add dried fruit mixture to the chicken and simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes.
- Stir fry almonds for a minute or two until golden brown and aromatic, then remove to a paper towel covered plate to drain.
- Remove skin from the chicken and discard. Plate the tagine sprinkling the almonds on top. Serve immediately with a side of rice, couscous, or grain of choice.
Nutritional description: this is not a low-fat recipe, but the proportion of healthy fats vs unhealthy saturated fats is maximized by utilizing heart-healthy olive oil for cooking. Feel free to experiment with a more low-fat version using chicken breasts instead of dark meat. The chicken + almonds provide plenty of satiating protein too. This meal is no salad, but it’s satisfying and provides more nutrition than a fast food hamburger.
Nutritional information (calculated without vegan substitutions or side of grains and based on 6 servings): Calories 339, Total Fat 24.4g, Saturated Fat 4.9g, Cholesterol 63.3mg, Carbs 13.3g, Fiber 2.1g, Sugars 12.5g, Protein 15.1g, Sodium 476.7mg