Milk Street From Morocco to Egypt (Ep 322)

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Lemon-Saffron Chicken (Tangia)

Start to finish: 1 hour | Servings: 4

Tangia—which originates in Marrakech and often is slow-cooked in the community wood-fired ovens that heat bathhouses— traditionally is made with lamb. For a more approachable version, we used boneless, skinless chicken thighs, which have a similar richness. In Morocco, preserved lemons lend a gentle acidity, lightening the richness. For an easier version, we get similar flavor from lemon zest and juice—as well as chopped green olives for brininess—added at the end of cooking. Serve with warmed, halved pita bread for scooping up the meat and thickened sauce.

Don’t reduce the lemon zest or juice. The zest provides both flavor and fragrance, and the juice adds tang and acidity. You’ll need 3 to 4 lemons to get 3 tablespoons grated zest; a wand-style grater works best.

INGREDIENTS

  • 5 teaspoons ground cumin, divided
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and patted dry
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 12 medium garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed
  • 3 tablespoons salted butter, cut into 3 pieces
  • 1⁄2 cup pimento-stuffed green olives, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons grated lemon zest, plus 1⁄4 cup lemon juice

INSTRUCTIONS

In a small bowl, stir together 2 teaspoons of the cumin and 2 teaspoons salt. Set aside. Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper.

In a large Dutch oven over medium-high, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining 3 teaspoons cumin, the turmeric, ginger and coriander, then cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in 11⁄2 cups water and the saffron, scraping up any browned bits. Nestle the chicken into the liquid, turning to coat. Cover, reduce to medium-low and cook for 20 minutes at a gentle simmer.

Using tongs, turn the chicken. Cover and cook until tender, another 25 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a plate. Bring the liquid in the pot to a simmer over medium-high and cook, stirring, until thickened, 10 to 14 minutes.

Return the chicken to the pot and stir. The chicken will break up a bit. Off heat, add the butter, stirring until melted, then stir in the olives and lemon zest and juice. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a platter and serve with the cumin-salt mixture to sprinkle over, to taste.


Cumin-Coriander Potatoes with Cilantro (Patates Mekhalel)

Start to finish: 20 minutes (10 minutes active) | Servings: 4

In Cairo, patates mekhalel are served by street vendors as a side to liver sandwiches, their gentle acidity and crunchy spices balances the richness of the liver. For our version, we peel, cut and cook the potatoes in water seasoned with both salt and vinegar, then dress the hot, just-drained potatoes with additional vinegar. To lightly crush the cumin and coriander seeds, use a mortar and pestle or the back of a heavy pan, or pulse them several times in a spice grinder. If you can’t find hot paprika, use 2 teaspoons sweet paprika plus 1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne pepper.

Don’t overcook the potatoes; the chunks should be tender but not fall apart. Also, don’t allow the garlic to brown in the oil or its flavor may be acrid and bitter. Remove the pan from the heat as soon as the garlic begins to turn golden and immediately add the paprika and honey, which lower the oil’s temperature.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 1⁄2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1⁄2 cup white vinegar, divided
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 1⁄4 cup grapeseed or other neutral oil
  • 4 teaspoons cumin seeds, lightly crushed
  • 4 teaspoons coriander seeds, lightly crushed
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons hot paprika (see note)
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 1⁄2 cups lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

INSTRUCTIONS

In a large saucepan over high, combine the potatoes, 1⁄4 cup of vinegar, 2 tablespoons salt and 6 cups water. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until a skewer inserted into the potatoes meets no resistance, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain, then transfer to a large bowl. Drizzle with the remaining 1⁄4 cup vinegar and toss; set aside. 

In a small saucepan over medium-high, combine the oil, cumin and coriander, then cook, frequently swirling the pan, until sizzling, 45 to 90 seconds. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until it just begins to turn golden, about 30 seconds. Off heat, stir in the paprika and honey, then pour the mixture over the potatoes. Add the cilantro, 1 teaspoon salt and 1⁄2 teaspoon pepper and toss. Let stand at room temperature for at least 10 minutes or up to 45 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. 


Spicy Egyptian Eggplant with Fresh Herbs

Start to finish: 40 minutes | Servings: 4

This is an oven-friendly version of a dish typically deep-fried by street vendors in Cairo. Because broilers vary in heat output, check the eggplant for doneness after 10 minutes. For the same reason, it also may need longer than called for. The pieces should be tender and lightly charred, but not falling apart. Harissa is a North African red pepper paste seasoned with spices and other ingredients; our favorite brand is DEA, which usually is sold in a yellow tube. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Don’t allow the eggplant to cool before tossing it with the harissa mixture. As they cool, the chunks absorb the flavorings. Allow the mixture to stand for at least 10 minutes before serving.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • Two 1-pound globe or Italian eggplants, trimmed
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1⁄4 cup harissa paste
  • 1⁄4 cup cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 medium garlic clove, finely grated
  • 1⁄4 cup finely chopped fresh mint
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill, divided
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

In a small skillet over medium, toast the coriander and cumin, shaking the pan, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder and let cool slightly, then pulse until coarsely ground; set aside.

Heat the oven to broil with a rack 6 inches from the element. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and mist with cooking spray. Cut each eggplant crosswise into 11⁄2-inch-thick rounds, then cut each round into 11⁄2-inch cubes. In a large bowl, toss the eggplant with the oil to coat. Distribute in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet; reserve the bowl. Broil without stirring until tender and lightly charred on top, 10 to 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, in the reserved bowl, whisk together the harissa, vinegar, honey, garlic, mint, 2 tablespoons of dill and the coriander and cumin. When the eggplant is done, immediately add it to the bowl, then gently toss to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Let stand for 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon dill.

PHOTO CREDIT: CONNIE MILLER OF CB CREATIVES