Inspired by Morocco and cooked just this afternoon, this is simply the best chicken I could think of. It is cooked with orange juice and olive oil and many spices, simmered with fresh broth, stuffed with stuffed dates and rice and almonds, and served with cinnamon and sugar.
Moroccan Cinnamon-Almond Chicken Stuffed with Stuffed Dates and Rice
1 whole chicken. The more recently it was alive, the better.
1 onion: a quarter of it grated with a metal cheese grater (easiest to do after peeling and before cutting) and the rest of it chopped
1/3 cup plus 1 T olive oil
2 T cinnamon, divided
2 tsp ginger, divided
tsp each of pepper, cumin, and paprika
tsp ras al hanut, if you’ve got it
Pinch of saffron
Note: all these spices are just to start out. Frankly chickens are different sizes and tastes are different in different people so you should adjust all those spices to taste. But I digress…
1 cup plus 1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/3 cup orange juice
12 dates, pitted (just pull them apart with your fingers and take out the pits)
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup white rice, uncooked
1 T butter
2-3 T honey
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Rinse off your chicken and remove its gizzardy innards. Set these aside for now. Combine all the above ingredients in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot and massage them into your chicken like you mean it. Oh, if you want you can spray the bottom of your pot with some cooking spray before you put the chicken in. That will help. But it’s not essential.
Next chop up the rest of your onion and put it in a saucepan with the gizzardy chicken innards and a few quarts of water and some spices that you like. Boil for an hour or two, strain out the liquid and set it aside.
In the meantime prepare your chicken’s new insides:
In a small bowl, mix a tablespoon each of olive oil and cinnamon plus a teaspoon of ginger with the almonds, tossing to coat thoroughly.
Use these almonds to stuff your dates. The advantage of slivered almonds is that you can use them to pin your dates shut post-stuffing (neato!!!)
You should have some almonds left over; mix half of these with the rice.
Grind the other half in a small food processor or grinder and toast them for just a few minutes at a low temperature or in a toaster oven.
Take all your dates, plus the rice and leftover almonds (not the ones you’ve ground up) and put them inside your chicken. Cover it up and put it in the fridge to marinate for, oh, six hours or so.
When you’re ready to cook, place the pot on the stove and add enough freshly-made broth to come about halfway up the chicken. Bring it to a boil, then reduce to low/medium-low heat, cover, and let simmer for an hour.
After an hour, remove the cover and breathe deeply.
Flip your chicken over and add the butter, the rest of the yogurt, and the honey. If needed, add a little more broth to ensure that at least half the chicken is submerged. This is a good time to add some more spices if you wish.
Cover again and simmer for another hour.
Serve topped with your ground toasted almonds and some powdered sugar, dusted with cinnamon.