Monday, September 8, 2014

Make it! Sunday Blessings and Moroccan Inspired Plum Chicken

Yesterday was a lovely mix of lazy and productive--exactly how I like my Sundays.  I spent a good chunk of the morning in bed, followed by grocery shopping, cleaning and cooking.  I like a tidy house, but often let the laundry get a wee out of control (out of sight out of mind in that basement laundry room). I've been working on keeping up with the laundry almost everyday, and so far it seems to be helping with the transition back to school, and maintenance of my sanity. Keeping on top of things throughout the week allows for these blissful Sundays. 

I had two good friends over for dinner last night. They also happen to be neighbors, so it's easy to throw together impromptu dinner parties. When my little girl is with her dad I spend extra time in the kitchen experimenting with recipes, dancing to Otis Redding and sometimes having a nice adult beverage along the way. I like having an afternoon to myself now and again, but when I make something delicious, I am always so disappointed she missed it being the little foodie she is. 

Blissful but sweaty, very sweaty, in the kitchen.

I had an abundance of plums from my generous neighbor Suzie, so I wanted to work as many into the recipe as possible.  I had picked both purple plums and yellow, but the yellow ones were already overripe and needed to be used immediately.  If you don't have a source of free plums, you could try prunes, raisins, wilty apricots or peaches, and even an apple or two.  Anything to give that touch of sweetness. 

I had my heart set on Moroccan chicken after my friend Deborah mentioned she had some recently.  I googled "Moroccan chicken" for inspiration on spices and searched the cupboard and found that I had smoked paprika, cumin and turmeric.  Those would be the smoky, savory flavors balancing the sweetness of the plums.  Moroccan recipes are often a wonderful marriage of sweet fruit and smoky, spicy flavor. 

As are most of my "recipes" (I put "recipes" in quotes because I'm an off the fly cook and think that a little confidence and a few techniques in the kitchen are far more important than any recipe), this was an easy dish, and relatively frugal.  The price per serving was approximately $2.24 per person, but could have easily been cheaper if I had used cheaper meat and veggies.  At one time I would have only have had the option of using less expensive ingredients.  I think you could easily get the recipe down to at least $1.25 per serving if not lower if using less expensive chicken and veggies (i.e. not organic).   For me, while I do adhere to a budget, I choose to put some of the extra money I have now towards food.  It's valuable to me.  I didn't always have that option when I was in my very lean years where I was living on $150/month for two people to eat.  The important thing is that we try to fill ourselves with nourishing food within our budgets that are enjoyable and healthy.  

I did serve this with some sides from the garden, but it is easily  an entire filling meal on its own. Lemon rice would also be delicious with this dish. 

Without further adieu...

Moroccan Plum Chicken


5 chicken thighs (feel free to use more, this is how many came in the package I bought)

1/2 pound of rainbow carrots (bag is 1 lb)

1 onion

1-2 tablespoons of olive oil or some other oil

Spices (turmeric, smoked paprika, cumin, cinnamon, black pepper) 

Kosher salt

Potaoes (I think I used about 1 pound - I abide by the "use as many as can fit in your pan" rule"). 

1/2 jar of Trader Joes Green Olive Tapanade

8 skinned plums (Since these were free I didn't factor them into the overall cost.  Possibly slightly unfair, I know). 

Chicken thighs are a cheaper cut of meat no matter if you buy conventional or organic.  The higher fat content in the meat makes this an extra flavorful and juicy cut.

Start by taking your meat out of the package and put them on a plate.  Salt them generously on both sides with kosher salt.  Sprinkle with turmeric, smoked paprika, and cumin an both sides.  I like the chicken to be out of the fridge for about 40 minutes before I cook it.  It really helps to get all that flavor in there.  

Take your overripe plums and slide the skin off (an easy task with such ripe fruit).  Pop the pit out by squishing the plum with your fingers. I squished the plums into pieces into a small pan just using my fingers.  Sprinkle with a generous amount of cinnamon. Honestly, I don't know if it's entirely necessary to cook the plums to bring out the flavor.  I did for about 20 minutes and the results were smashing - but feel free to experiment. I think I could have cooked them much longer and reduced to a sweeter concoction.  This makeshift plum sauce would be incredible over ice cream, mixed with dessert rice, or in cottage cheese or yogurt. 

Chop up your potatoes, carrots and onions and toss with oil, salt and black pepper in a bowl.  Toss with the plum sauce and place all that yumminess into a baking dish.  I broke my large casserole pan last week (it exploded, long story), and so I used an old Corningware pot that was generously given to me after a neighbor on the block passed away. Lay those juicy chicken thighs right atop that lovely veg and then top each thigh with a scoop of green olive tapanade (it's best to scoop out what you need first in a bowl and then place on the chicken as you don't want to contaminate the rest of the jar with chicken germs).

Not the prettiest picture, but I swear to you, this was delicious!

Pop in the oven at 350 degrees for 45 mins to an hour or until the potatoes are done. I finished off my cooking with about a five minute broil. If you prefer your chicken not quite as well done, add in after the potatoes and veggies have cooked for a bit. Enjoy with friends or family.  Or if you are lucky, friends you love enough as family, and family you like enough as friends. 

My lovely friends and a giant air conditioner tube.

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