Dinner ahead


Once or twice a week, we pack a bag and head to Lo’s house for some grand-parenting. Since her parents work in Boston and have long commutes, our day shift can be 14 hours long. And one thing we know – that as the sun sets on a long day of toil: rocking the baby, talking in silly voices, dressing Lo in various outfits to take her picture, serving bottles and changing diapers, (not to mention her academic schedule of music appreciation, literature and physical education), we are going to be hungry!

And so are Lo’s world-weary parents who have spent the day in commuter traffic and either caring for sick kids at Boston Children’s Hospital or enlightening confused coders at Fidelity.

Hence, I have taken it upon myself to provide dinner. The rules of this challenge include dairy-free (milk protein allergy for Lo), make ahead (no time in our day to shop, prep and cook), reheat-able in shifts but with limited need for oven or stovetop (haven’t mastered their finicky stove), healthy and, lastly, or perhaps firstly, tasty. Because my whole family fancies themselves food critics.

We’ve been leaning heavily on the humble chicken. Braised with spices and vegetables, served with naan and a little salad – this one was a hit!

First, a random picture of Lo to whet your appetite. Note that she appears to be hungry.


Moroccan Chicken with Dates, Carrots and Chickpeas

3 1/2 pounds chicken breast halves, thighs, and drumsticks (or all thighs to make it easier)
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
10 or so shallots,peeled
4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks
3 cinnamon sticks or 1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or less if your diners are spice-adverse)
3 cups low-salt chicken broth
5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
12-15 dates, pitted, halved or dried apricots or a combination
2 14 oz cans of garbanzo beans (chickpeas) drained and rinsed
1/4 cup almonds, toasted, coarsely chopped or shelled pistachios
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Sprinkle chicken pieces with salt, pepper, and flour. Heat olive oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add half of chicken pieces to pot and cook until browned on all sides, turning occasionally, about 15 minutes. Transfer chicken to baking sheet or platter; repeat with remaining chicken. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from pot and discard. Reduce heat to medium. Add shallots and carrots to the pot; sauté until golden, about 6 minutes. Add cinnamon sticks, ginger, cumin, turmeric, and cayenne. Stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Increase heat to high; add broth and 3 tablespoons lemon juice. Bring to boil; reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until shallots begin to soften, about 18 minutes. Place chicken pieces atop shallots in pot. Bring to boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until juices run clear when thickest part of drumstick or thigh is pierced with knife, about 25 minutes.

Transfer chicken and shallots to platter; tent with foil. Boil juices in pot until slightly thickened. Stir in dates/apricots, chickpeas and remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Reduce heat and simmer gently until dates are heated through, about 2 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper, if needed. Pour sauce and dates over chicken. At this point, you can cool and refrigerate. (Tastes better the next day.)

When ready to serve, reheat over a low burner, or in a 300 degree oven or in a microwave. Sprinkle with nuts and cilantro, and serve with warm naan.

I don’t have a photo of this meal, but I do have another picture for you. Note that she is indeed perfect. image




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