I, like everyone else in North America right now, am a bit obsessed with Yottem Ottolenghi. My copy of “Jerusalem” is littered with so many post-it notes that it resembles something from “A Beautiful Mind”. I have turned to Yottem on many a special occasion and my sister’s birthday was no exception. After mixing and matching dishes from “Jerusalem” and “Plenty”, his vegetarian offering, I had it sorted. We would celebrate with a menu of Braised Quail with Dried Apricots, Steamed Rice with Herbs, and Roasted Beet And Fennel Salad.
The first time I make a dish, I normally follow the recipe religiously. However, when I caught myself pondering whether or not the spices would be better toasted, I knew I was going rogue.
Braised Chicken with Dried Apricots and Figs
(adapted from “Jerusalem”)
- 2 Corish Game Hens, butterflied and halved down the breast bone. You can just as easily use a chicken, quartered.
- 1.5 tsp ground cumin
- 1.5 tsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed
- 1.5 tsp dried chile flakes
- 0.5 tsp coarse salt
- healthy dose of ground pepper
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 c dried apricots, sliced
- 1/2 c dried figs, sliced
- 1/8 c raisins
- 1.5 Tbsp sugar
- 2 Tbsp tamarind paste
- juice from 1/2 lemon
- 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
- 1/2 c white wine
- 1 c water
- Fresh flat-leaf parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice to finish
1) Take a small sauté pan and place it on medium heat. Add your fennel, chile, and cumin and toast for a few minutes, tossing them in the pan frequently. Remove from heat and add the salt and pepper.
2) Dry your game hens/quail/chicken with a paper towel and pop them in a bowl large enough to handle them. Add the spice mixture, massaging it into the birds well. Cover and chill in the fridge anywhere from a couple of hours to overnight if you were that organized.
3) Remove chicken and allow to come to room temp. Heat the olive oil in a pan that will ultimately be large enough to hold everything (this pan should have a lid, if possible). Brown the chicken on all sides – if you have to do it in batches, take the time as crowding the pan will not give you the deep brown colour and crispy skin you want. Remove the chicken from the pan.
4) Add the apricots, figs, raisins, tamarind, lemon juice, and thyme. Sprinkle with the sugar. Add the wine and allow for the alcohol to burn off.
5) Return the birds to the pan and add the water. Cover and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes, until the meat is cooked through. If the pan is drying out, add more water.
6) Remove the chicken again, arrange on serving platter, give it a squeeze of lemon and garnish with the parsley. Cover with foil and allow to rest.
7) Turn the heat up and reduce the sauce until it thickens to your desired consistency. Serve along side the braised meat.
Just as a note…I roasted some fresh figs with a bit of honey and thyme for an added touch. Definitely worth it – in fact, next time I will do more.