Slow Cooker Chicken Tagine With Butternut Squash
Inspired by Moroccan tagines, which often pair sweet dried fruit with savory elements, this dish has deep layers of contrasting flavors: warmth and sweetness against acidity and spice. Taking the time to brown chicken skin, sauté onion and toast spices is definitely worth the 20-minute investment here, lending this stew a rich flavor. But if you're really pressed for time, you can skip it. Instead, layer the squash, dates, onion and chicken in the slow cooker, and season everything generously with salt and pepper. Whisk together the oil, ginger, garlic, spices and lemon juice, and pour it on top before cooking. Then finish the dish the same way the recipe directs: Season to taste with lemon and salt and finish with the parsley and scallions.
- Serves: 4 persons
- 1medium-small (2 to 2 1/2 pound) butternut squash, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and cut into 3-inch-by-1-inch wedges
- 8pitted dates, such as Medjool, halved
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 1(1-inch) cinnamon stick
- 2teaspoons sweet paprika
- 1 ½teaspoons turmeric
- 1teaspoon ground cumin
- ½teaspoon hot smoked paprika
- ½teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2tablespoons canola oil
- 3 ½to 4 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 8 thighs)
- 1large red onion, finely chopped
- ¼cup minced ginger (from about a 4-inch piece peeled ginger)
- 6large garlic cloves, chopped
- ¼cup lemon juice (from about 1 large lemon), plus more to taste
- Leaves of 1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 4scallions, thinly sliced
- Cooked couscous or pita for serving (optional)
- Plain yogurt, for topping (optional)
- Toasted almonds, for topping (optional)
Step 1Put the squash and dates into a 6- to 8-quart slow cooker. Season generously with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon stick, sweet paprika, turmeric, cumin, hot smoked paprika, ground ginger, cloves and cayenne and set aside.
Step 2Warm the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Pat the chicken dry and season it generously with salt. 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.
Step 3Decrease 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. Add the ginger and garlic, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the reserved spices and stir well for about 30 seconds, until the mixture is a uniform brick red. 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.
Step 4Cook 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. Remove and discard the cinnamon stick. Add lemon juice and salt to taste and fold in the chopped parsley and scallions. Serve with couscous or pita, topped with yogurt and toasted almonds, if desired.