Slow Cooker Chicken Tagine with Butternut Squash

I made this full-flavored Moroccan dish when we were dreaming of a family trip to Morocco. (Currently still a dream trip!) It was amazing to be able to create a tagine-like dish using a slow cooker. My husband actually often asks me if I “need” a tagine. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Sarah DiGregorio. I increased the amount of garlic and served the chicken over Israeli couscous with sautéed kale on the side. The chicken was falling-off-of-the-bone tender. Wonderful!

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

Time: 4 1/2 to 6 1/2 hours

  • 1 medium (2 to 2 1/2 pound) butternut squash, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and cut into 3-inch-by-1-inch wedges
  • 8 pitted dates, such as Medjool, halved
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1 ½ teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon hot smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 T canola oil
  • 3 ½ to 4 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, trimmed (I used 8 thighs)
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup minced ginger (from about a 4-inch piece peeled ginger)
  • 6 to 8 large garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ cup lemon juice (from about 1 large lemon), plus more to taste
  • leaves of 1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • cooked couscous or pita for serving, optional (I used Israeli couscous)
  • plain yogurt, for topping, optional (I used 2% Greek yogurt)
  • toasted slivered almonds, for topping, optional
  1. Finely chop the onion in a food processor; set aside. Mince the ginger and garlic in a food processor; set aside.
  2. Put the squash wedges and pitted dates into a 6- to 8-quart slow cooker. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon stick, sweet paprika, turmeric, cumin, hot smoked paprika, ground ginger, cloves and cayenne and set aside.
  4. Warm the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  5. Pat the chicken dry and season it generously with salt.
  6. Working in two batches, put the chicken in the skillet skin side down and cook without moving it until the skin is deeply golden, crisp, and releases fairly easily from the bottom of the pan, about 5 to 8 minutes per batch. (You need to brown only the skin side.) Transfer the chicken to the slow cooker, nestling the thighs skin side up and in one crowded layer on top of the squash.
  7. Decrease the stovetop heat to medium. If there is a lot of rendered fat in the pan, pour off all but a thin layer to cover the entire bottom of the skillet. Add the onion, season with salt, and cook, stirring to scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan, until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes.
  8. Add the ginger and garlic, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  9. Add the reserved spices and stir well for about 30 seconds, until the mixture is a uniform brick red.
  10. Add the lemon juice, stir well to incorporate the browned bits, then scrape the mixture over the top of the chicken, making sure to include any spice-stained oil that remains.
  11. Cook on low until the squash and chicken are very tender and the flavors are mellow, at least 4 hours and up to 6 hours. If it’s more convenient, you can let the slow cooker switch to warm after 6 hours. The dish will hold on warm for another 2 hours before the chicken starts to dry out.
  12. Remove and discard the cinnamon stick. Add additional lemon juice and salt, to taste, and fold in the chopped parsley and scallions.
  13. Serve with couscous or pita, topped with yogurt and toasted almonds, as desired.

Cauliflower Tagine

This dish was the perfect way to celebrate my beautiful CSA cauliflower. Although the base of this tagine was a bit spicy, the cauliflower and cheesy breadcrumb topping offset the spiciness and created a perfect balance. Because I didn’t have the Tunisian spice blend, Tabil, on hand, I was able to create the spice blend myself. The spiciness in the final dish could be easily modified by adjusting the amount of red pepper flakes in the spice blend.

The tagine recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Nancy Harmon Jenkins. I reduced the amount of olive oil to lighten the recipe. I also included a leek as well as green and yellow bell peppers from my CSA share. The spice blend recipe was adapted from Epicurious.com. It was a full-flavored and fabulous vegetarian casserole.

For the Tabil Spice Blend:

Yield: about 3 tablespoons

  • 1 1/2 T coriander seeds
  • 2 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 T caraway seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  1. Finely grind all ingredients in a spice mill.

Note: The remaining spice blend can be reserved in an airtight container at room temperature.

For the Tagine:
Yield: Serves 6

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North African Meatballs

This ultra-flavorful dish is based upon a version of North African meatballs served in France, where they are called boulettes. Both the sauce and the meatballs are loaded with spices. SO fragrant and delicious.

This recipe was adapted from the New York Times, contributed by David Tanis. I used ground turkey instead of beef or lamb and increased the garlic. I also forgot to include the raisins in my couscous! We ate it with steamed spinach on the side but it would also be incredible served with roasted tomatoes or roasted cauliflower- or all of the above. Next time!

I’m sharing this dish (belatedly, again) at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #111 this week, co-hosted by Naina @ Spice in the City and Julianna @ Foodie on Board. Enjoy!

Yield: Serves 6

For the Saffron Tomato Sauce:

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 and 1/2 cups finely diced onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 1 inch piece cinnamon stick
  • large pinch saffron, crumbled
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups chicken stock, vegetable broth, or water

For the Meatballs:

  • 1 1/2 cups cubed day-old firm white bread
  • 1 cup milk (I used 1 percent)
  • 1 1/4 pound ground beef, lamb, or turkey
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • ⅛ tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp cayenne
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 3 T chopped parsley
  • 3 T chopped cilantro
  • 3 T finely chopped scallion
  • all-purpose flour, for dusting
  • olive oil or vegetable oil

For the Couscous:

  • 1 cup giant couscous, m’hamsa, or medium couscous
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • ½ cup golden raisins, soaked in hot water to soften, then drained
  • coarse salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Make the Sauce:

  1. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a wide, heavy bottomed saucepan. Add onion and cook without browning until softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add garlic, tomato paste, cinnamon and saffron, and stir well to incorporate.
  3. Season generously with salt and pepper, and allow to sizzle for 1 minute more.
  4. Add stock and simmer gently for 5 minutes. May be made several hours in advance, up to a day.

Make the Meatballs:

  1. Put bread cubes and milk in a small bowl. Leave bread to soak until softened, about 5 minutes, then squeeze dry.
  2. In a mixing bowl, put squeezed-out bread, ground meat and egg.
  3. Add salt, pepper, garlic, nutmeg, ginger, turmeric, paprika, cayenne, cloves, coriander and cumin. Mix well with hands to distribute seasoning.
  4. Add 2 tablespoons each of parsley, cilantro and scallion, and knead for a minute. May be prepared several hours in advance, up to a day.
  5. With hands or a cookie scoop, roll mixture into small round balls about the size of a quarter.
  6. Dust meatballs lightly with flour. (I gently rolled the meatballs in the flour as I lifted them up to place in the pan.)
  7. Heat a few tablespoons of oil, or a quarter-inch depth, over medium-high heat and fry meatballs until barely browned, about 2 minutes per side. Drain and blot on paper towel.
  8. Simmer meatballs in saffron-tomato sauce, covered, over medium heat for about 20 minutes, until tender.

Meanwhile, Make the Couscous:

  1. Cook according to package directions, fluff gently and stir in butter and raisins.
  2. Season with salt and cinnamon, and toss well.

To Serve:

  1. Garnish meatballs with remaining parsley, cilantro and scallion. Serve with couscous and roasted tomatoes, roasted cauliflower, or steamed greens, as desired.

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