We eat it & cook it all the time. On salads, in casseroles, between toast, slathered in BBQ sauce, as a hot dog, on a bun, grilled on the George Foreman, fried up with mashed potatoes on the side...and I could go on.
Lots of us love chicken. Why? It’s inexpensive, versatile, and healthy (unless fried or dipped in bleu cheese dressing)… it’s just a good thing to eat (please no PETA attacks).
We (well, if you are sort of like me) listen to it and watch it all the time. Weezer, Death Cab, Of Montreal, Rilo Kiley, Airborne Toxic Event, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Jets Overhead, Arcade Fire, Band of Horses, Spoon, The New Pornographers, Ra Ra Riot, the Dirty Projectors, Vampire Weekend… and I could go on.
Lots of us love indie-rock. Why? It’s a bit grassroots-ish, against “The Man”, geeky at times, it can melancholy in a good way… it’s just a good thing to listen to (please no “your music is whiny” attacks).
This week chicken and indie-rock are going African exotic - Coriander, tumeric, cumin, golden raisins, couscous… paired with conga drums and Soukous (African dance music)…
And thus African Tagine-Style Chicken and Vampire Weekend… it’s just good all around.
Describing their genre as “Upper West Side Soweto”, Vampire Weekend’s music is a fusion of indie-rock and African beats… very danceable, very fun, and a bit more exotic than your everyday sound. The boys of Vampire Weekend utilize dance rhythms from Congo (DRC) to create an aesthetic connection between their preppy Ivy League backgrounds (they met while studying at Columbia) and native African culture. On the below playlist, check out CAPE COD KWASSA KWASSA, the fourth single off their self-entitled album released in January 2008 by XL Recordings.
And continuing the African-world beats theme, the band released its second album “Contra” in January 2010. I have been in love with this album for a good 6+ months. The first track HORCHATA makes me want to actually drink Horchata (a sweet chilled Mexican drink) in December. Moving on to COUSINS – the line “Me and my cousins and you and your cousins, it’s a line that’s always running” reminds me of my 28 first cousins (and can’t even count how many second cousins) back in Lebanon. And the second single GIVING UP THE GUN is just a rad close to the album tying off the track-listing with clean African sounds.
Now for our tasty North African Tagine-Style chicken dish. I don’t own a Tagine (but would like to one day, Santa) so this dish is just cooked on the stove but tastes like its been simmering away in clay Tagine for hours. I served this up for Celeste and Blake and then for my family and it was a crowd-pleaser (and I can tell when people are humoring my cooking – they weren’t).
So here we go: North African Tagine-Style Chicken (Serves 4)
Here is what you need:
-2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil – about 2 turns of the pan
-4 cloves garlic (smashed up – I mash them up in a mortar with a pestle - in Arabic – a garlic smasher)
-1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into large bite-size pieces
- Coarse salt and coarse pepper
- 1 large yellow skinned onion, sliced into strips
- 10 pitted prunes, coarsely chopped
- 1-ounce box or 1/4 cup golden raisins (a handful)
- 2 cups chicken stock
Spice blend (mix these up in a small bowl)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin (lovely spice for Middle Eastern, Latin, Indian, and African cooking)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon tumeric (also found in currys which gives that nice yellowish color)
- 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon, a couple pinches (secret sweetness)
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan, in a slow stream, and add smashed garlic. Season the chicken liberally with salt and pepper. Scatter chicken around the pan in an even layer and scatter the spice blend on top evenly over the chicken. Cook chicken pieces 2 minutes on each side to brown, then add the onions, prunes, raisins and stock. Cover and reduce to moderate heat. Cook 7 or 8 minutes until the prunes and raisins plump up, remove the lid and stir. Uncover chicken and cook another 2 to 3 minutes to thicken slightly. Adjust the seasoning, to your taste. Garnish with anything green available (cilantro, scallions...). In addition to prunes and raisins, you could also add pomegranate seeds.
I served this with couscous on the side, but took the easy route by buying a box of couscous and just adding liquid, per the directions. I also added some raisins to pick up the flavor in the chicken. This goes great with a fruity red wine, but if you are not in the mood for wine, this is also nice with TJs Sparkling Pomegranate Juice.
Alright friends – I am out to prep – tonight I am seeing Vampire Weekend at the Bowl with Taleen and I am excited to dance it up African style. Hugs and Kisses!
Recipe adapted from Rachael Ray.