Saturday, October 2, 2010

Chicken Tagine

My mother got me a subscription to the Nutrition Action Healthletter, a short newsletter that comes every month and includes articles about what science is saying you need to be healthy, as well as critiquing some of the additives in food, the size of restaurant meals, etc.  Each moth there are also three healthy recipes around a theme.  September's theme was chicken and included a recipe for Chicken Tagine (follow the link for the recipe).  As I'm reading, I usually skim through the recipes without trying any of them, but the description for this said, "A tagine is an aromatic North African stew that's named after the heavy clay pot in which it's traditionally cooked."  That description just screams "crock pot recipe."

I decided to just follow the recipe as much as I could at the beginning, before throwing everything into the crock pot and letting it cook for 6-8 hours on low.  I tried to figure out what a good recommendation would be for cooking chicken, but everything I looked at only said what temperature the chicken should be at when cooked, not how long it would take.  Ultimately, I decided on 6-8 hours on low because most of the chicken recipes I've made in the past cook for that long.

Anyway, I started following the recipe by browning the chicken as suggested, before I added it to the crock pot.  I did use boneless, skinless chicken thighs as the recipe asked.  Though every time I use chicken thighs I realize that I don't like that cut of meat as much and should just use boneless, skinless chicken breasts for all of these recipes.  After transferring the meat to the crock pot, I sauteed the whole wheat flour, spices (tumeric, ground cumin, paprika, and cayenne), and minced garlic and added it to the crock pot on top of the chicken.

At this point I just started throwing in all of the ingredients.  I hadn't planned in advance very well, and was running out of time before I had to go to class.  Luckily, my fiance was in town and volunteered to help by cutting all the vegetables.  As you can see from the picture on the left, we added zucchini, chicken broth, and the stick of cinnamon first.

Then I added the tomatoes.  As you can see from the picture on the right, I screwed up and paid so little attention that I didn't notice my screw up until I opened the can of tomatoes.  The recipe calls for a can of diced tomatoes and these, clearly, are not diced.  However, I actually really enjoyed the way the stew came out in the end with the whole tomatoes and might repeat this mistake if I make the stew again.

At this point, I had to leave for class so I left my fiance to finish chopping the other vegetables.  However, if I had planned ahead, none of this would have been a problem because the night before I could've chopped all the vegetables, measured out the spices, and minced the garlic.  That way, in the morning, I would just have to brown the chicken, saute the spices and garlic, and assemble the crock pot.  My fiance added the final vegetables, the carrots and onion.  I asked him to take a picture of what the entire thing looked like assembled before cooking.

This is what happens when you ask a boy to take a picture of the assembled crock pot for your blog.

And this is what the stew looked like when it finished cooking.

Now, I just have to say that this stew was absolutely delicious.  My fiance actually said that it was one of the best dishes I've ever made in the crock pot.  I did not add any salt to it (the recipe says to season it with salt at the end), but we did serve it over couscous (though I couldn't find "whole wheat couscous" in my local grocery store).

The cool thing about the Nutrition Action Healthletter recipes is that they calculate the nutrition information for you and this dish only has 320 calories per serving (and I did get six servings out of this).  Now, I think in reality it was probably a little higher than that because I think we had more couscous in each dish than they think we should have, but even then there is no way that the dish went over 400 calories.  When getting the ingredients for this, I already had the EVOO, most of the spices (except cinnamon sticks), garlic, carrots, and an onion.  For the things I had to purchase, the total cost per serving comes out to just over $3.75, which is mostly that high because the couscous wasn't on sale.  Overall: as a graduate student I highly recommend this as a healthy, low-cost dish.

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