Stewing over cold weather with tangine

Cold demands remedy: itchy sweater, bright fire, steaming stew.

Challenges, all. In extra-cold, I rely on my extra-itchy sweater. It was made in Ireland, long ago, by a sheep handy with the cableknit. I stuff myself in, do up the leather buttons and feel hogtied and sheepish. Then I take it off, and feel cold.

I try fire. I stuff the latest Amazon box with twigs, flick in a match and marvel at the orange conflagration, one soon collapsed to cold hiss.

I stew. I'm fond of Moroccan tagine, which is to say stew. Tagine can be cooked in a point-topped pot called a tagine. Or served in a point-topped dish called a tagine. Or simmered in a standard saucepan by a cook tied into a point-topped cap and still called tagine. In the savory/sweet tradition, mine pairs chicken with sweet potato. It's apricot sticky, ginger bright, cayenne spiced.

I serve it scorching hot, a welcome rejoinder to a day spent in the company of scratchy sheep and damp twigs.

Chicken tagine

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: 1 hour

Serves: 4

8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 2 pounds), cut in half

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup olive oil

2 onions, halved and thinly sliced crosswise

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground cayenne

1 bay leaf

3 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons apricot preserves or jam

2 cups chicken broth

1 pound sweet potatoes, cut into 2-inch chunks

½ cup plump dried apricots, cut in half

Prepared couscous, for serving

Harissa*, for serving

1. Season: Toss chicken with salt and pepper. Set aside.

2. Soften: If you have an actual stove-top tagine, use that. Otherwise, a Dutch oven or other large heavy pot will do. Heat oil over medium-low. Add onions and cook, stirring now and then, until very soft and lightly tanned, about 20 minutes. Add garlic and ginger; stir 1 minute.

3. Simmer: Stir in cinnamon, cayenne, bay leaf, tomato paste, apricot preserves and broth. Bring to a boil. Nestle in reserved chicken, sweet potatoes and apricots, making sure everything is submerged. Lower to a gentle simmer, cover and let cook, 45 minutes, no peeking.

4. Serve: Uncover, poke chicken and potatoes with a fork to make sure they are tender (if not, cover and cook a little longer). Pull out and discard bay leaf. Scoop prepared couscous into serving bowls, ladle on stew. Serve with harissa, for a little spicy kick.

*The spicy North African tomato and pepper condiment can often be found next to the hummus.

Leah Eskin is a Tribune Newspapers special contributor. Email her at

Twitter @leaheskin


Featured Stories

CTnow is using Facebook comments on stories. To comment on articles, sign into Facebook and enter your comment in the field below. Comments will appear in your Facebook News Feed unless you choose otherwise. To report spam or abuse, click the X next to the comment. For guidelines on commenting, click here.