Chef Michael Schwartz's recipes in Michael's Genuine Food are best described as American, whether they are traditional takes on classic dishes or reinvented riffs on the tried and true plates we grew up with. This Braised Chicken with Apricots, Green Olives, and Herbed Couscous falls into the latter category, a Moroccan-inspired take on chicken stew.
This one starts by flouring and browning meaty chicken thighs in a Dutch oven. Add the stew staples (carrots, onions, and celery) to the pan drippings along with chicken stock, as well as green olives and dried apricots. The casserole goes into the oven and is cooked until, in Schwartz's words, "your kitchen smells amazing." It's not exactly the most accurate time measurement, but in this case it's perfect. Once you start smelling those warm, chickeny aromas, you can be pretty sure that your chicken is falling apart tender and the stew has thickened beautifully.
When taking the stew out of the oven, you'll find that the apricots and onion have melted away almost entirely, leaving the sauce with a slightly sweet, warm richness. The briny olives, carrots, and celery, along with the chunky chicken thighs are just waiting to be scooped over an orange juice steamed couscous flecked with scallions, mint, and cilantro.
Just as comforting as an old-fashioned chicken stew, this one is even better when left to rest in the fridge overnight and served the following day.
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 pounds chicken thighs (about 12), bone in, skin on, preferably free-range
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 2 carrots, cut into large chunks
- 1 medium white onion, cut into large dice
- 3 celery stalks, cut into large chunks
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cup dried apricots (about 20)
- 1 1/2 cups pitted green olives, such as Manzanilla
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup orange juice
- 1 cup couscous
- 6 scallions, white and light green parts, sliced
- 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh mint leaves
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Spread the flour in a large shallow plate. Season the chicken liberally with
salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken lightly in the flour to coat all sides, tapping off the excess. Put a Dutch oven or large ovenproof pot over high heat and coat with the oil. When the oil is shimmering, add 5 pieces of chicken and brown them for 4 to 6 minutes on each side, without moving them around too much so you get a good sear. Transfer the chicken to a platter and repeat with the remaining thighs.
To the drippings in the pot, add the carrots, onion, and celery. Cook,
stirring, for about 5 minutes, or until the vegetables soften and begin to get some color. Add 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, the cinnamon, apricots, olives, and stock. Nestle the chicken in the pot so the thighs are covered with apricots, olives, and stock. Pour any drippings collected from the platter into the pot. Bring the stew to a boil, then cover and transfer to the oven. Bake for 1 hour, or until your kitchen smells amazing.
Combine the orange juice, 1/2 cup water, and 1 tablespoon salt in a small pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, stir in the
couscous, and quickly cover to keep in the heat. Let stand for 10 minutes, until the couscous is soft.
Combine the scallions, cilantro, and mint in a small bowl. Remove the chicken from the oven and gently stir in the butter until completely melted.
To serve, put the couscous in a serving bowl and fluff with a fork. Fold in
half of the scallion mixture. Sprinkle the remaining scallion mixture over the
braised chicken, and serve it right out of the pot.
a dutch oven