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The Moroccan spice mix ras el hanout gets its name from the Arabic phrase "top of the shop," or "top shelf," so you know it's good. A complex mix usually made from a dozen or more ingredients, it can contain allspice, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and a number of other deeply flavorful, rich spices—and it's traditionally made from the best spices the spice merchant has to offer.
It makes whatever it touches incredibly flavorful, and has an almost curry-like flavor that's delicious when rubbed on lamb, fish, and chicken—as in this recipe for Moroccan-Spiced Chicken with Dates and Shallots.
Here, Pete cooks down brandied dates and adds them to chicken braised with a tomato paste-ras el hanout mixture. While the spice mix does most of the talking, the dates sweeten it and keep it from getting too loud, maintaining the dish's careful balance. Just make sure to serve it over rice so you can make the most of the sauce (and if you take a spoon directly from the pan, we won't tell).
And once you've made the ras el hanout mix in this recipe, you'll have a jar's worth—the perfect excuse to fry up some fish or make this dish all over again with lamb or tofu. You're going to want to have it more than once.
For the Moroccan-Spiced Chicken with Dates and Shallots:
- 3 tablespoons Ras El Hanout spice mix, plus more for seasoning (see recipe below)
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 6 large chicken thighs (or 8 smaller thighs)
- 32 large, pitted dates (Medjool), divided
- 3/4 cup brandy, divided
- 10 medium shallots, peeled
- 1 1/2 cups chicken broth (low sodium)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons hot pimenton (or other smoked paprika, go mild to suit taste)
- 3 large sprigs thyme plus 1 1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon butter
- ground black pepper
For the Ras El Hanout spice mix:
- 1 1/4 teaspoons ground allspice
- 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 20 threads saffron, crushed
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground mace
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon ground anise (from star anise)
What's your favorite way to use ras el hanout? Tell us in the comments below!