One of the greatest things I love about cooking is how much of a learning curve everybody has. You can always discover new ingredients or flavor combinations and discover fun and interesting ways to use them. I had such an experience with a new spice blend I found on the market shelves: Ras El Hanout.
Ras El Hanout is a traditional Moroccan spice blend that has a variety of powerfully fragrant ingredients, including multiple types of ground peppercorns, lavender, cinnamon, and many other powerful spices. Together, it has a wonderfully fragrant scent that goes perfectly with just about anything. I decided to use it to make a much cheaper version of a Moroccan classic - Chicken Tagine.
Tagines typically have a ton of different vegetables and spices, including the extremely expensive saffron and everything from squash to eggplant. This version is much simpler and cheaper. Everything can basically be cooked in the same pan (except for the cheat's couscous, which simply involves pouring the remaining hot liquid in with the couscous to make it) in the oven, which means they all flavor each other in the most amazing way. The herby couscous is a cheap but perfect counterpart to the chicken and vegetables in the final dish that will leave an amazing scent in your kitchen and a warm feeling in your belly.
Recipe serves 4 people.
4 chicken drumsticks
1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
2 bell peppers (multicolor if possible), thinly sliced
2 small mild chilies, roughly chopped (I used Shishito peppers, anything around that mildness works perfectly)
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 tablespoon ras el hanout
1/2 tablespoon sumac
Salt and pepper to season
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup dry couscous
1/4 cup fresh chopped mint
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Combine the chicken drumsticks, onion, bell peppers, chili, garlic, ras el hanout, sumac, and salt and pepper to taste in a baking dish. Pour the chicken stock over the mixed chicken and vegetables, and rearrange the drumsticks after mixing to ensure that they sit on top of all of the vegetables.
3. Cover the baking dish with tinfoil, and bake for 35-40 minutes. Remove the foil and turn the heat up to 425 degrees for another 10 minutes to help brown the skin.
4. Combine the couscous and the mint in a bowl. Once the baking dish comes out of the oven, pour over enough of the chicken broth to completely and submerge the couscous, about a cup. Let the couscous sit for around 5 minutes until the broth is fully absorbed. Squeeze over the lemon juice, and fluff with a fork.
5. Serve the chicken with the couscous and plenty of the vegetables from the baking dish. Drizzle with any leftover broth to maximize flavor.
Using a cheap cut like chicken drumsticks as well as cheap vegetables and grains like couscous, onions, and bell peppers makes this dish very easily to pull off on a college budget, even with the sumac and ras el hanout (which don't cost more than most spices). It makes it incredibly easy to pull off a light, fragrant, and delicious meal for you and your friends!
I hope you enjoyed this recipe! Let me know what you think and what you would change. If you make it at home, let me know how it turns out! Enjoy! =)