30-Minute Chicken Tagine

Hi everyone! I am back from Guadalajara! All toilets, I am pleased to report, were in full working order. Not a single large spider was spotted. We were also not kidnapped (as I briefly feared when my boss recommended that we wear jeans instead of the business outfits we’d brought, having just been told by a Mexican friend that we should try to look as inconspicuous as possible). I view my non-kidnapping as a huge plus.

But of course, what kind of a story is ‘all was well’? Really, it’s no kind of a story. So be reassured: shenanigans were nonetheless afoot. A big week-long festival in Tlaquepaque (where we stayed) serenaded us with exploding fireworks, loud mariachi bands, and the crazy, energetic noise of people celebrating in the street. This went on all night long. And by ‘all night long’ I mean that we checked into our bed and breakfast around 8pm Monday evening, and when we came down for breakfast around 7:30am the next morning, the party was still raging. Not petering out, or winding down, or losing its steam–raging, I tell you. Raging.

Number of hours of sleep between check-in and check-out = 0.256. I was suddenly very grateful that our connecting flight had us at the Dallas airport the following night, where not a single enthusiastic mariachi man was in sight.

Now please don’t misunderstand me–I’m in full support of people partying in the streets, saying the Lord’s Prayer over a loudspeaker, and greeting the dawn with dancing and yelling. But those firecrackers sounded like bombs, man. And we kind of had a meeting with a client the next morning, type of thing. The short dozes I coaxed myself into throughout the night were populated with nightmares of large hairy rats whose heads I was trying to smash against the wall, except that I couldn’t quite get enough energy in my arm to do the deed with one try.

What does that dream mean? I don’t think that a detailed analysis would be fruitful at this point.

Anyway, it’s time for more food.

I am one of those people who mentally divide meals into two categories: weekend and weeknight. Being a workin’ woman these days, Monday through Friday there is simply no time to make most braises, stews, or roasts. The incomparable flavor of these dishes has been reserved, in my mind, for a Saturday or Sunday.

When I started leafing through my library copy of the fantastic cookbook ‘The Best 30-Minute Recipe,’ I read that the brilliant minds over at America’s Test Kitchen wanted to make stews, braises, and traditionally long-cooking things like lasagna into faster (but still delicious) weeknight versions. I may have pumped a fist in the air. In fact, if these people want to lead a revolution, I will follow. Take me to your leader.

Are you getting the feeling that I’m becoming obsessed with America’s Test Kitchen? Because if you are, that feeling would be correct, sir.

This recipe for Chicken Tagine that I bring to you today was a thrilling success. It all starts with microwaving chicken thighs to get the cooking done faster. I was skeptical at first–really? The microwave? Wouldn’t that make the chicken all gross and stuff? Where would the flavor come from? Well if there’s one thing I can state with confidence: there is no lack of flavor here! I still can’t believe it’s possible to make such a rich and wonderful dish in so short a time. The chicken is just as tender as if it had been on the stove for much longer. Rest assured that I’ll be bringing you more of this kind of recipe. I’ve been craving more ever since the last bite.


(Serves 5)

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 TBS olive oil
1 onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp salt
2 TBS flour
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup chicken stock
1/3 cup quartered dried apricots
2 TBS minced cilantro

In order to make this work in 30 minutes, multitasking and prepping things in order is very important, so I’ll walk you through it as best I can. First up: getting the chicken started.

Season the chicken thighs generously with salt and pepper and place them in a single layer in a microwave-safe casserole dish (if you use a plate, the juices may run over and make a mess).

Cover the dish tightly with plastic wrap . . .

. . . and microwave on 50% power for 15 minutes. Now I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to make my microwave go to 50% power, and since I suspected the manual was in a dusty spot under the couch where it was likely trod upon repeatedly by spiders, I simply did 15 minutes of ‘cook’ using the regular settings and it worked fine.

Now grab a large onion.

Give it a good mince. A good sharp knife is essential to performing this task quickly and safely.

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium high heat. When hot, add the onion, garam masala and 1/4 tsp of salt, and cook for 5 minutes until the onion is softened.

Garam masala, by the way, is an Indian blend of spices that will rock your world. If you don’t have any on hand, just do a quick google search and you will turn up a million recipes telling you how to make your own by combining spices such as cinnamon, coriander, cumin, etc.

While the onions are cooking, get your chicken stock ready and open the cans of chickpeas and tomatoes (and drain/rinse the chickpeas under the faucet). Here they are, standing to attention.

Ready to jump into action at my beck and call.

While you’re at it, quarter the dried apricots. Such a lovely, bright orange!

You should also have time to mince up the garlic. I hope that multitasking doesn’t make your head spin.

Once the onion is softened, add the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds.

Add the flour . . .

. . . and cook for about a minute, until the flour is slightly browned. Stir constantly so that the flour doesn’t burn.

Pour in the chicken stock . . .

. . . and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the tomatoes . . .

. . . chickpeas . . .

. . . and the quartered apricots.

Stir everything in and then bring it to a simmer.

Cook for about 5 minutes on medium heat (until the apricots are soft).

During those 5 minutes, give the cilantro a rough chop:

The chicken should definitely be out of the microwave by now. Be careful when removing the plastic wrap so that you don’t burn yourself with the steam.

Turn down the heat to low and add the chicken thighs, submerging them in the liquid.

Add any juices from the chicken as well. Cover the pot . . .

. . . and cook for about 10 minutes, until the chicken is tender and cooked through.

The chicken is so tender that you can break it apart or shred it with a spatula before serving it, for optimal ease of consumption.

I’m all about optimal ease of consumption.

Stir in the cilantro and season the stew to suit your taste. I needed a little extra salt and pepper. Serve the Tagine over rice or couscous, with extra cilantro for garnish.

And there you have it–a wonderful stew adapted to the weeknight schedule.

You all have to try this. Have to.

Am I sounding bossy?

You know–don’t answer that question. Just obey.


The Older Sister Who Never Got Over Being a Bossy Older Sister

Click here for printer-friendly version: 30-Minute Chicken Tagine

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13 Responses to 30-Minute Chicken Tagine

  1. So glad you weren’t kidnapped! I’m looking forward to some tales of ribaldry!

    ps: Microwaving chicken? Who knew!

  2. Wendi says:

    I’m with Kitch. Must have detailed accounting of shenanigans.

  3. Layla says:

    Jenna, you need to become an cookbook writer FOR America’s Test Kitchen! I love your details and pictures :o)

  4. zaid says:

    with Kitch. Must have detailed accounting of shenanigans.

  5. myblogject says:

    I gotta say… Your recipe posts are bloody awesome! I mean in both food wise and post wise. congrats you wonderful blogger you!

  6. I love this! Who would have thought of adding in dried apricots?!?! That one threw me off a bit, but now I’m curious!
    I know how you feel, I’m the older sister and I practically act like a second mother with my bossiness! Ha!

  7. Veronica says:

    This reminds me a lot of the Moroccan couscous recipe a friend shared with me that took me like all day to prepare. 30 minutes is a miracle! Thank you!

  8. jessica says:

    I am loving this blog! I am so glad you come by the other day so I could find your site. This tagine looks so impressive and down right sinful. Wouldn’t mind having a small-nope- HUGE bowl of it on my plate for dinner! Been looking over your other photos- you are one amazing photographer girl! Amazing!

  9. Helen says:

    Hi Jenna,
    I was a bit unsure about this recipe, microwaving chicken!!, I only use mine to heat up soup and defrost things that that are already cooked.
    I gave it a go however, cooked up a batch, portioned most of it up for the freezer had has some that night. I was bit ho-hum about, and my freezer smelling of garlic for the next few day kept reminding me that I wasn’t excited about it.
    But I had a batch out of the freezer for dinner tonight and it was really great. I’m not sure that 4 or 5 days in the freezer is the same as being left overnight to develop the flavours. Doesn’t matter really, it’s going into my dinner repetoire now.
    Thanks for sharing with us, and for the great photos. If I hadn’t seen your pictures I wouldn’t have read past “microwave”

  10. Pingback: Who Ate The Evidence? « a little lunch

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