This weekend, I had a chance to catch up with my brother. I live at opposite ends of the country from the rest of my family, and when it comes to my brother, I don’t think there’s much farther that we could be. He’s in Southern Cali, I’m in upstate NY. Being a close family, that’s hard on me because I don’t get to see him as often as I like. I miss eating together and cooking together. Years ago, when we both lived in Seattle, I’d go over to his house and giggle at his dinner set up. Oh, you think I’m bad with my scheduled dinners, but I’ve got nothing on my little brother. On his refrigerator he clipped a little chart of what he was going to eat each day of the week, every week. Mondays, he would eat spaghetti with sauce from a jar. And not just one or two Mondays — every Monday indefinitely. He was very scheduled like that so he didn’t have to wonder what he was going to eat every day.
That was then. These days, he’s lightened up a bit. I got to talking about the Cook’s Illustrated book I’ve been going through, The Best 30-Minute Recipe, and he seemed very interested. I told him to head over here and see what I had been cooking. He said he would. I was thinking that I should give everyone a break from this cookbook, but now I have a mission — I’m not just cooking for this website, I’m cooking for my brother! It’s the best I can do, seeing as how I can’t just pop over to his house and have a BBQ.
So here’s a little something from the book. The other day, I whipped up a 30-minute version of Chicken Tagine. This one is loosely based on the tagine of Moroccan cultures, which is a braised stew cooked in a clay pot. When my modern, Americanized version was finished, I served it over a very basic couscous.
I liked the simplicity and heartiness of this meal and, let’s be honest, I’ll eat anything with chickpeas in it. This dish does require a little brightening, so don’t omit the cilantro. The chicken could also use a good squeeze of fresh lemon, as all it’s really getting for seasoning is salt and pepper. Our web admin felt that the chicken was a little lacking in flavor, and it didn’t occur to me until later that I should have added some bright, fresh lemon juice.
30-Minute Chicken Tagine
Adapted from The Best 30-Minute Recipe
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, minced
2 teaspoons garam masala
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 (14.5 ounce can) diced tomatoes
1/2 cup dried apricots, quartered
1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Season chicken with salt and pepper and arrange in single layer in microwave-safe casserole dish. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and microwave on 50 percent power for 15 minutes.
(Note: This is the first time I’ve ever cooked meat by microwave – it was a little weird but came out a lot better than I expected.)
While chicken cooks, heat oil in large frying pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Stir in onion, garam masala, and 1/4 teaspoon salt, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Stir in flour and cook until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Slowly stir in broth, scraping any browned bits. Stir in tomatoes, apricots and chickpeas, bring to simmer, and cook until apricots begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
Reduce heat to low and add microwaved chicken with any accumulated juices. Cover and continue to cook until chicken is tender, about 10 minutes.
Stir in cilantro and season with salt and pepper to taste. Squeeze fresh lemon juice over chicken. Serve.
There’s a part of me that still balks at the 30-Minute Recipe deal, as if I’m cheapening my meal — especially when I go ahead and do something like cook my chicken in a microwave. It’s weird, to say the least, but I’ve actually learned some new techniques. I really believe in this book for fast meals, and would recommend it. In fact, I’m thinking I might buy the book for my brother, and possibly all my friends. They’re definitely more trustworthy and flavorful than Rachael Ray, and they’re great, basic recipes you can build on.
From The Best 30 Minute Recipe
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cup small couscous
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups water
Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add couscous and cook, stirring occasionally until lightly browned, 3 – 5 minutes. Stir in salt and water and bring to boil. Cover and remove from heat. Let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff couscous with fork before serving.