Hanukkah Dinner: Moroccan Braised Chicken

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The festival of lights is upon us!  As we set up the candles, pull out the dreidel and start to count our chocolate gelt, many of us are also preparing for a traditional Hanukkah meal. For most, that means grating potatoes for latkes and maybe brining a great big brisket.  While I wouldn’t dare replace our precious potato pancakes, perhaps we can come up with a healthier option than brisket this year.

As a traditional Moroccan dish, this chicken combines the sweet warming properties of carrots and prunes with the anti-inflammatory immune-boosting benefits of cinnamon and ginger.  A throwback to our Sephardic ancestors, it’s a perfect seasonal dish and goes great alongside a potato pancake or two (or three!).  Try it this year and it’ll become an annual family favorite.  Best of all, no one will be wanting for brisket.

Moroccan Braised Chicken

Serves 6-8

Cook Time: 90min

  • 1½ lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into large chunks (bones and skin are welcome here if you prefer)
  • 4 tablespoons coconut oil (ghee or vegetable oil would also work fine)
  • 1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1-2 cups vegetable or chicken stock (homemade if you have it, or I like a touch of Better Than Bullion)
  • ½ lb carrots, cut in large chunks
  • 1½ cups pitted prunes
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest (about ½ a lemon)
  • ½ cup slivered or sliced almonds
  • Sea salt and fresh pepper to taste

This dish is best cooked in a heavy cast-iron piece like a Dutch oven, cast-iron pan or tagine, if you have one.  If not, a heavy bottomed pot or saucepan will do.

Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in the Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper before browning the pieces on all sides, working in batches, and removing them as they are done.  Do not cook through.  Boneless breasts are quite lean, so be careful they don’t stick. Set aside all chicken before proceeding.

Add the onion to the pot with the remainder of the oil.  Sauté 10-15 min until soft, working with a wooden spoon to scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pot (that’s flavor!).  Add the cinnamon, ginger and lemon juice and stir for one minute.  Return the chicken pieces to the pot, adding enough stock so that all the chicken is partially submerged.  Bring mixture to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer, cover and cook about 20min.

After 20min, give it a good stir and add the carrots, prunes and zest. Cover and continue to simmer another 20-30min, until the carrots are cooked and the chicken falls apart easily. Salt to taste. Add the almonds, stir and enjoy!

Add a green vegetable with your potato latkes and you’ve got a meal. If by chance it’s no longer Hanukkah and there are no latkes, this dish goes great alongside some brown rice, quinoa or simply steam some greens.

Tried the recipe? Did you and your family like it? Tell us what you thought in the comments!

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December 2012
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