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Escape to Morocco

Goat Tagine

When I started my blog a little over 4 years ago, one of my goals was to be motivated and inspired to cook from my overflowing freezer and pantry. I’ve had mixed results with that objective. Howard would say it’s more of a negative flow, in other words, the coffers seem to fill more and more instead of emptying.

I was reminded of my resolution though when I recently had trouble finding something that I just knew was in the freezer somewhere. I can’t remember what it was, but I know that, with frozen fingertips, I did eventually find it in the back of the bottom shelf of the upright freezer. This experience renewed my intention of being creative with ingredients I have on hand.

In my search for the mystery item, I came across a package of goat stew meat from back when we were in a meat CSA, before the meat delivery outran the pace of our consumption. With the weather decidedly colder, a pot of stew seemed in order.

After a survey of the food on-hand, and a little internet browsing, I was inspired to make a tagine, no further grocery shopping required. I had canned tomatoes and chickpeas on the shelf as well as onion, garlic, and butternut squash from our Winter CSA. The Moroccan spices added culinary warmth that was lacking outside. Served over a bed of quick-cooking couscous, the pseudo-exotic stew made a satisfying meal.

If goat is too exotic for you, or you don’t have a ready source, this would be delicious with lamb instead. If you’ve never tried goat, do! Globally, it’s the most popular meat. It’s not as strong and gamy as lamb, yet it has a different taste than beef or pork. Try it, you’ll like it!

Goat Tagine with Chickpeas and Roasted Winter Squash
Serves 4

1 lb goat stew meat, trimmed of fat and membranes, cut into ½-inch pieces
2 Tbsp olive oil (divided)
Salt and pepper
1 onion, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 can (28 oz) whole peeled tomatoes, drained (juice reserved) and coarsely chopped
1 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into ½-inch pieces
1 can (15 oz) chickpeas, drained and rinsed

In a bowl, season the meat with salt and pepper.

In a medium-sized Dutch oven, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Brown the meat on all sides, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and garlic. Cook until the onion starts to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cinnamon, coriander, and cumin. Allow flavors to bloom for a few minutes.

Add chopped tomatoes and the juice. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat. Simmer for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 400F. In a bowl, toss together the butternut squash pieces and the remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Spread the squash in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake 20-25 minutes, stirring halfway through, until tender and somewhat browned.

Add the roasted squash and chickpeas to the stew. Continue to simmer for about 10 more minute to allow the flavors to meld.

Serve over couscous.

French Fridays with Dorie: chicken b’stilla

Another week, another recipe for French Fridays with Dorie. So far in January, the two recipes I made earlier this month were a little disappointing. I was really excited about this week’s recipe, Chicken B’stilla – and it met all my expectations.

B’stilla is a Moroccan chicken pie, wrapped in fillo dough and sprinkled with sugar. I had this dish once before, at a Moroccan restaurant in Philadelphia, where this was just one course in a multi-course meal we ate lounging on pillow-laden couches around a low table. I’ve seen recipes for it, but I never had the occasion or reason to try it at home.

I made this chicken pie over the weekend, and I think it would be too involved to make on a weeknight. I loved the lovely fragrance as the chicken simmered with the warm spices. The dish is a little unusual. Between the honey in the sauce and the cinnamon and sugar sprinkled on top of the pastry, it is a very sweet though soundly savory dish. It is definitely something different, but I liked it.

The chicken from Chestnut Farms comes as whole legs, so instead of 8 thighs, I used 4 whole legs, that I cut into separate legs and thighs. It was all dark meat that gets shredded in the end, so I don’t think this adjustment made any difference at all.

The recipe called for a 9-inch cake pan at least 2 inches high. Mine was only 1½ inches. I wasn’t sure if it would be deep enough. If it wasn’t, I’d be in trouble. I have a 9-inch springform pan which was 3 inches deep, so I used it instead. It worked out perfectly. It also was very easy to free the pie from the pan. All I had to do was unhinge!

This pie is wrapped in fillo dough, which I haven’t worked with in decades. It didn’t make me nervous because I’ve had good results before. Unfortunately, on this count, the grocery store failed me. It wasn’t that I couldn’t find fillo dough. They carried it. The issue was that, despite following all warnings and instructions about keeping the defrosted dough covered so it would stay moist, the fillo was already dried out when I unrolled it. Something went awry in their storage process.

I dealt with it. I did learn that, for me, it was easier to lay the sheets in the pan BEFORE brushing them with butter than to brush them first and THEN try to move them. I started out brush and moving, but it was disastrous. This could have been because the dough was already slightly crumbling. I ended up using two extra sheets on the top and the bottom to bandage the cracks. It all worked out in the end.

I loved the moist filling. The chicken was tender, and the honey sauce added to the texture. It reminded me a little big of pulled chicken from a BBQ restaurant, but with a completely different sauce and no smoky flavor. I enjoyed the contrast between the filling and the crispy pastry and the crunchy almonds. It was delicious. Dorie said this needed no accompaniments, though I served a green salad with vinaigrette to which I added a teaspoon of Penzey’s Turkish Seasoning.

I hadn’t planned ahead, but I should have invited friends over to share. We did get to enjoy the leftovers. It reheated better in the oven (for dinner at home) than the microwave (for lunch at work), but it still tasted good either way.

My box of fillo came with two sealed packets, and I defrosted one, which had about 20 sheets. This recipe only called for 8 sheets, and I don’t like to waste. I ended up finding a recipe for baklava in Small-Batch Baking by Debby Maugans Nakos. The recipe used 7 sheets to make a mini-baklava, in a loaf pan, making 8 pieces. There was just enough to compliment the b’stilla the first night and with the leftovers. The syrup for this recipe had a strong orange flavor which I’ll tone down when I make it again. It was excellent.

If you’d like to see how the chicken b’stilla worked out for other bloggers, check out their links at French Fridays with Dorie. If you like what you see, you can buy yourself the book and join our cooking group.