Dinner Rush! Moroccan Chicken Stew With Green Beans

A couple of weeks ago, I posted an entry encouraging you guys to make your own tandoori spice at home, inspired by a delicious one I found at my local market. Not being that guy who is going to leave you hanging with a rogue jar of “what do I do with that now?” spice blend, this week’s Dinner Rush is putting it back in action to create a quick and delicious Moroccan-inspired stew.

The flavors of Morocco are known for rather closely treading the line between sweet and savory. Lots of the spices in our tandoori blend — cumin, ginger and turmeric, for instance — are blended with cinnamon, lemon and dried fruits to produce simply composed and intricately flavored dishes. For ease of preparation, I’ve borrowed only a few of those ideas. If you’ve got the time to get a bit crazy, though, see how a pinch of saffron and a handful each of chopped prunes and chopped green olives completely will take this dish to a new level.

This stew is a great idea to keep on hand, too, for a Meatless Monday inspiration. You can easily swap the chicken stock for veggie stock or water, and trade the shredded chicken for a can of chickpeas. Do me a huge favor, though, and don’t skimp on the cilantro at the end. It cuts through the spice in the tandoori powder and gives the dish a great balance. Plus, it’s one of my top-three favorite herbs, for those curious.

2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon tandoori spice
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cups chicken stock
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, lightly crushed
1 cup red lentils
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 pound green beans, stems trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 to 4 cups shredded chicken (from 1 rotisserie chicken)
Zest of 1 lemon
Salt and ground black pepper
4 cups steamed white rice, such as jasmine
Chopped fresh cilantro, to garnish

Place a large high-sided saute pan over medium heat with the oil. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook, stirring often, until just tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the tandoori spice, cinnamon and tomato paste to the pan, and continue cooking until caramelized and very aromatic, about 2 minutes.

Add the chicken stock, tomatoes, lentils and honey, and bring the liquid up to a boil while scraping any caramelized bits up from the bottom of the pan. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the lentils are almost cooked through, about 10 minutes. Add the green beans, chicken and lemon zest to the pan, and continue cooking until the lentils and beans are cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve the stew over steamed white rice garnished with cilantro.

NOTE: When it comes to crushing canned whole peeled tomatoes, I’ve been taught two very effective tricks. There’s the Rachael Ray approach, which employs a potato masher to gently smoosh and shred the tomatoes once they’re added to the pan. There’s also the Rachael Ray Prep Kitchen method ( @RRShowCooks if you want to follow them on Twitter), where a pair of kitchen shears snip at the still-in-can tomatoes to chop them up before adding them to the pan. Either method is winner, winner chicken dinner.

Patrick W. Decker’s life revolves around food. Always has, probably always will. As a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and past member of the culinary teams for Food Network stars Rachael Ray, Sandra Lee, Bobby Deen and Paula Deen, he now works as a food stylist and producer in NYC by day and a food writer and recipe developer at his home in New York’s Hudson Valley by night. You can see what he’s up to by following his latest tweets on Twitter at  @patrickwdecker  or visiting his website at  patrickwdecker.com .

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