Given all of the turmoil in the news these days, I need a break! So let’s focus on one of my favorite and non-political aspect of the Middle East – the food! If anything can bring us all together, food just might be it. Maybe if we all get together and cook for and with each other, we’ll be more focused on delicious flavors and new friendships than differences of politics, religion, and all the rest. One of my favorite authors/bloggers is Sasha Martin, who created the site Global Table Adventure says this: “…cooking has the power to help families bond, empower, and heal. What’s more, setting a global table creates compassion and understanding – which helps the world heal…” I’ve mentioned this beautiful site before… you should all go take a look. Ever since I stumbled upon her site (years ago!), I’ve been inspired by her.
The flavors of the Middle East are amazing. This recipe isn’t based on a traditional recipe that I found, but was instead developed based on delicious spices/flavors and the ingredients I had at home. The chicken comes out nice and moist, and surprisingly, the carrots might be my favorite part of the whole thing! When you eat your chicken, spoon a little bit of the braising liquid on top so you get as much flavor as possible 🙂
Braised Chicken Thighs with Middle Eastern Spices
- 4 large bone-in chicken thighs
- 2 tbsp neutral oil
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp cardamom
- 1 tsp coriander
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp turmeric
- Salt & pepper
- 1 3/4 cups chicken stock
- 20+ baby carrots
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Salt & pepper the chicken thighs on both sides.
- In a dutch oven (or similar stove/oven-proof dish), heat the 2 tbsp of oil over medium heat.
- Once the oil is hot, place the thighs in the dish, skin side down. Leave to sear for ~6 minutes. Then flip and brown on the non-skin side for another 4-5 minutes. Once the chicken is browned on both sides, remove to the side briefly.
- Lower the heat just slightly and toss the onions and garlic into the remaining oil. Cook stirring occasionally until just beginning to brown, ~10 minutes.
- At this point, if there is significantly excess oil, drain it off.
- Add all of the spices to the onions and garlic. Cook an additional 3 minutes.
- Deglaze the dish with the chicken stock, scraping all the delicious brown bits from the bottom.
- Return the chicken and the carrots to the dish.
- Cover with the lid and place into the oven. The chicken will braise for 45 minutes.
Now that finals are over, we have some time to make a delicious dinner and also catch up on some of our favorite TV shows, Top Chef in particular. There was an episode where one of the chefs had an hour to make something, and she chose to use the pressure cooker to braise some meat. We thought, “pressure cookers are cool, but you know, we actually have the time to really braise something.” There’s something about braising – meat simmering in a rich liquid for hours on end – that always sounds good, and tastes even better! Braising is also a lot easier to make than most people think, as there isn’t much technical skill or finesse that goes into the dish.
We made oven roasted carrots and beets and homemade truffle Parmigiano-Reggiano mashed potatoes. The braising liquid is a great sauce that goes well on top of pretty much everything. You’ll definitely want to pair this with a starch that’ll soak up the delicious liquid so you won’t embarrass yourself by slurping it off your plate. Because you will not want to let it go to waste!
We did not use a bottle of wine out of our collection to cook with, but we did open one to drink with it. In a slightly belated celebration of our first wedding anniversary, we opened a bottle of our “wedding wine.” Our favorite vintage, of our favorite blend, from our favorite winery – King Family Vineyard‘s 2010 Meritage.
Red Wine Braised Beef
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 12 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 onions, finely diced
- 6 carrots, roughly diced
- 1 bottle merlot wine
- 3 cups beef broth
- 1.5 lb beef short ribs
- 2.5 lb beef shoulder roast
- 12 sprigs of thyme
- 3 bay leaves
- Salt and pepper
- In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
- Cut the beef shoulder into smaller portions, roughly the same size as the short rib portions. Season all sides with the salt and pepper.
- Brown the beef on all sides briefly. Remove to the side.
- Strip the thyme from its sprig. Let leaves remain whole.
- Add onions, carrots, and half of the thyme to the Dutch oven. Stir to coat in the oil and scrape up any brown bits from the beef. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the garlic to the dish and cook an additional 5 minutes.
- Deglaze the dish with the entire bottle of wine. Adjust heat to a light simmer. Allow to reduce by half.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
- Return beef to the dish and add the beef broth, bays leaves, and the rest of the thyme.
- Cover and place in the oven for 3 hours.
- Be careful removing from the oven. Serve over potatoes, rice, or another starch.
We’re still pretty (very!) new to this whole blogging thing. And sometimes I really want to write down and publish a recipe, because I liked it enough to have it in our repertoire, but I feel like I have very little creative to say about it. This was my dilemma with this dish. Usually I solve this problem by making Selim, who is by far and away the more creative of this pair, write the post. I couldn’t bully him into it this time, so here we are. Don’t judge too much 😉
We’ve been on a little bit of a kick recently, where we cook meat in the oven all afternoon at a low temperature. So far it’s turned out great! This mustard chicken was our latest experiment. It yielded a tasty and fall-off-the-bone chicken, plus flavorful veggies and broth to accompany it.
Oven Braised Mustard Chicken
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 4 tbsp spicy brown mustard
- 1 1/2 tbsp of liquid from kalamata olives (not oil)
- 10 kalamata olives, sliced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
- 1 tsp paprika
- 2 turns of black pepper
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 bell peppers
- 1 small onion, sliced
- 5 chicken drumsticks
- Pre-heat the oven 250 degrees.
- Whisk together all of the ingredients except for the chicken, onion, and bell peppers.
- Place the onion and chicken in a casserole dish. Pour the liquid over top.
- Place in the oven, uncovered, and cook for a total of 3 1/2 hours.
- Flip the drumsticks and stir up the liquid once, about halfway through.
- Slice and add the bell peppers to the dish after three hours of cooking / with 30 minutes left.
This recipe is another prime example of why we created this blog. We first made this recipe a few years ago for Selim’s father and sister. We all loved it then! I was thinking about how delicious it was the other day, but could not for the life of me remember where I got the recipe from! I was convinced it was from Jerusalem, an excellent cookbook of Middle Eastern recipes from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. I paged through it over and over trying to find the recipe to no avail. (Literally I did this for a good 45 minutes.) I followed this up by googling “chicken recipe braised harissa olives.” Google isn’t perfect after all… Turns out, I had the entirely wrong cookbook in mind.
This recipe is in fact from Best Ever Slow Cooking, another favorite of mine. This recipe brings the flavors of the Mediterranean and Northern Africa into a delicious braised one-pot dish. We made a fair amount of changes to the original recipes, but stayed pretty true to the flavors I think.
The aromas coming out of our Le Creuset evolved as this recipe progressed. Initially, you’re hit with the crackling of the chicken searing on the stove that fills the air with a warmth that only cooking fat brings. Once you toss in the onions and garlic, there is that familiar aroma of things to come. After adding all the ingredients to the pot, you’ll be flooded with African, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean scents as the cumin, harissa, cinnamon, citrus, and saffron meld together with the chicken fat, onions, and garlic. The little saffron threads will dominate as this recipe cooks for an hour or longer. Trust me, even as I write this well after dinner is done and we’re a few glasses into our lovely bottle of Virginia chardonnay from DelFosse, the whole house smells like saffron and we couldn’t be happier about that. We hope you’ll enjoy this recipe as much as we have.
Northern African Braised Chicken
- 1 tbsp oil
- 6 bone-in chicken thighs (we prefer skinless)
- 1 large yellow onion, sliced
- 6 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1 2/3 cups vegetable (or chicken) stock
- 1 lemon [1/4 tsp of lemon zest, 2 slices, & the juice of the rest of the lemon]
- 1 tbsp harissa
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 tsp saffron threads
- 1 cup of sliced kalamata olives
- 2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
- Salt & pepper to taste
- In a large dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Once hot, sear the chicken thighs on both sides. Remove from pot after seared and set aside.
- Saute the onion and garlic in the same pot, also over medium heat, for ~10 minutes. They should be browning and quite fragrant by this time.
- Sprinkle the cumin over the onions and garlic. Stir and saute for another minute.
- Pour the stock and lemon juice into the pot and deglaze the pot. (Scrape the bottom of the pot to get all of the delicious bits loose and back into the liquid.)
- Add the cinnamon stick, harissa, saffron, and lemon zest. Bring the liquid to a boil.
- Now lower heat to a low simmer. Add the chicken back into the pot, plus the lemon slices and olives. Arrange so the chicken is covered with the liquid, as much as possible.
- Cover and cook over low heat for ~1 hour. Stir once halfway through cooking.
- Season with salt & pepper to taste. Top with the chopped cilantro.
- Serve over rice, couscous, lentils, or whatever grain you would like.
Makes 6 servings.