Tunisian Chicken by Way of Burma

By • February 11, 2014 12 Comments

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Author Notes: Naomi Duguid's Burma has an intriguing and delicious recipe for Aromatic Chicken from the Shan Hills. She chops a whole chicken into “small pieces,” quickly stir fries the pieces, adds aromatics, and stir fries a bit more before simmering to finish. It is a great weeknight meal -- one pot and quick-cooking.

While I love southeast Asian flavors, I also love to experiment. I figured as long as the skeleton of the recipe (chicken, tomatoes, onion, and garlic) remained intact, it would be perfect for taking to another part of the world. My mind headed to northern Africa, so I swapped the ginger, lemongrass, and turmeric for cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and cloves. With harissa for heat and pomegranate molasses for tang, the dish came together nicely. Remaining true to its inspiration, it is quick and flavorful. Served over couscous, it makes a very satisfying weeknight main dish that is tasty enough to serve to guests.

Food52 Review: This chicken dish came together quickly. It's an easy weeknight dinner, and the leftovers even appealed to my 15 year old -- whom I would call discriminating (but not picky). I tweaked the spices a bit to make them sing.JudyH

Serves 6

  • Two 14 1/2-ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 1/2 to 3 pounds bone-in chicken breast or thighs, or boneless thighs
  • 1 medium to large onion
  • 4 medium garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon harissa paste, plus additional to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons peanut or other high smoke point oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 tablespoon pomegranate molasses, plus more to taste
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
  1. Drain diced tomatoes over a bowl while preparing other ingredients.
  2. Remove skin and excess fat from chicken. Use kitchen shears and/or a sturdy knife to cut the chicken into small pieces (breasts into 4 pieces and thighs into 3 pieces). Rinse well, making certain to remove any stray bone shards. Pat dry with paper towels, then set aside.
  3. Cut stem and root ends from onion. Cut onion in half lengthwise (pole to pole). Remove skins, then cut onion halves lengthwise into thin slices. Transfer to a bowl, or push to one side of cutting board. Peel and mince garlic cloves. Add to sliced onion. Dump 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon harissa, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and cloves atop onion. Set aside.
  4. Heat peanut oil in large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the chicken. Wait about 30 seconds to allow sputtering to decrease, then stir and turn chicken pieces for about 3 minutes, until chicken has very little pink flesh visible. Add the onion mixture and stir to combine, then add the drained tomatoes. Stir and cook an additional 2 to 3 minutes, until the onion strips have become flexible. Add about half of the strained tomato juice (just eyeball it). Reduce the heat to medium, then cover the pot and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in the thyme. Taste a small amount of the “juice” and add salt or harissa if needed. Allow to simmer for about 10 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Remove from heat and stir in the pomegranate molasses and cilantro. If you prefer a “juicier” dish, stir in more of the remaining tomato juice Taste, then add salt, harissa, or pomegranate molasses as needed. Serve over couscous, noodles, or rice.

More Great Recipes: Entrees|Vegetables|Chicken|Chicken Breasts|Tomatoes

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