By Marsha Fottler –
Moroccan cooking is having a moment. It happens every few years because the cuisine of Morocco is always delicious and fairly accessible to home cooks now that global spices are available in local markets and online. When each renaissance occurs, this culinary trend always creates a product demand for the tagine. Whether or not you’re an expert in North African cooking, a tagine is a cool thing to have in the kitchen because it looks like art.
If you have a glass-front cabinet in your kitchen, the sculptural tagine would be just the thing to display. But, don’t let it gather dust because it’s more than eye candy. Use it. A tagine is a two-part cooker made of heavy clay, which is usually painted or glazed. The base is a round shallow bowl. A large cone-shaped cover sits on the base during cooking. The cover is designed to promote the return of all condensation to the bottom. Fragrant juices don’t escape as steam but lurk to braise the ingredients. Remove the cover and use the decorative base as your serving dish.
There are all kinds of easy stew-type meals that can be cooked in a tagine and because this kind of cooking generally tenderizes meat, you can use bargain cuts of lamb, beef or chicken. But there are loads of wonderful vegetarian dishes made for tagine cooking too. A good tagine costs about $50, but you can spend more depending on size and artistic rendering. You commonly see tagines on wedding registries lately because novice cooks appreciate the beauty and exotic nature of this piece of trendy kitchen equipment. (See recipe below).
The standing mixer in bold colors is a big trend right now too. Red is the color to have. Manufacturers figure that if you’re going to have something so big, bulky and heavy on your counter it might as well make a fashion statement. Stainless steel is a big seller too for obvious reasons, the mixer will match the appliances. In-home coffee makers, expensive and fairly complicated to maintain, have won the hearts of Americans and sales are up. Everybody wants the custom coffee-house experience every morning in their own kitchen. The mandolin, a handy and efficient little slicer, is a piece of equipment that professional chefs love and so do home cooks. But, there are more than many chefs who have lost the tips of fingers by neglecting to use the guard feature on the mandolin. If you buy one, always use the guard. Hefty slow cookers remain popular as do all the equipment you need to can your own vegetables and make your own preserves. Mason jars are having a spotlight year.
Big and heavy and in favor right now are French enamel-coated cast iron cookware. Le Creuset and the spin-off brand by Martha Stewart (sold at Macy’s) are competing for attention. Lifting these pots is an upper body workout. I bought the new generation (meaning a different color collection) Le Creuset 9-quart Dutch oven in Marseilles blue for making huge quantities of ratatouille, chili, and beef bourguignon. Moving the pot from the stove or from the oven to the table or buffet board will definitely gives muscles a workout. I’ve just about retired the thing to the baker’s rack in my kitchen where it looks nice. My husband lifts the lid periodically and throws in supermarket coupons that he then forgets to use. These behemoth pots are selling briskly and some people who are fitting out a kitchen will buy a whole set. These folks will go on to have great abs.
Chicken and Chickpeas Tagine
from 150 Best Tagine Recipes by Pat Crocker
3 tablespoons melted butter
20 strands saffron
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
3 tablespoons avocado or olive oil
2 onions, cut in quarters
4 medium potatoes cut in wedges
4-6 skinless, bone-in chicken pieces (dark meat, breast or both)
1 cup chicken broth
1 cinnamon stick (about 2-inches)
1 can (14-19 ounce) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
In a bowl, combine melted butter, saffron and turmeric and set aside. In the bottom of a flameproof tagine, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and potatoes and cook, stirring for about 5 minutes. Add spice mixture and chicken, meaty side down, sliding around and moving vegetables away from the bottom so that chicken flesh is in direct contact with bottom of tagine. Cook for about 5 minutes. Using tongs turn chicken over. Add broth and cinnamon stick and bring to a boil. Cover with tagine lid, reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring once, for 25 minutes. Stir in chickpeas and parsley. Replace lid and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until chickpeas are heated through the chicken is no longer pink inside for breasts and juices run clear for thighs. Discard cinnamon stick prior to serving.