Almost two weeks later, I'm still obsessed with the meal I had atTagine Dining Gallery. What can I say? I had some really good stuff there.
Last week I attempted to replicate the delcious dip that was served on my table, charmoula. This time I am attempting to emulate one of my appetizers, zalouk. This was a cold salad made of roasted eggplant seasoned with charmoula.
We know I have a fear of cooking eggplant. It's not my favorite vegetable, and while some restaurants have successfully made it in ways I like, I haven't always had luck making it taste good to me. It's not just about eggplant either. I'm not fond of mushy vegetables in general. All I can say is this salad tasted really good and seemed fairly foolproof.
I decided to re-imagine the whole thing as a hot dish with a tagine-style flair. I don't own a tagine, but I do have a terracotta pot.
This pot has been called my tagine in the past when I season the food I cook in it using Middle Eastern style seasonings. When I marinate the contents in yogurt, this vessel becomes my "tandoori oven". ;-)
I started by sweating chunks of eggplant in salt so they gave off their juices and then I rinsed them off. Then I made a charmoula paste.
I tossed the whole thing with chunks of tomatoes and onions.
I laid a butterflied chicken on top of this in the pot. The chicken was rubbed with a mixture of olive oil, lemon zest, cumin, and ground coriander.
Into the oven at 450 for about an hour and change.
So how was it?
Let's just say there are some ideas that never should see the light of day. I thought having the eggplant roasting beneath the chicken in the pot would give it the same sweet, roasted quality that the zalouk had with the chicken drippings going throughout it.
FAIL! Eggplant was watery and sort of vegetal tasting. I should have roasted it in a pan where the steam wouldn't get to it and then just roasted the chicken by itself in the terracotta pot. The chicken did come out wonderfully moist and fall-off-the-bone tender, as chickens made this way always do.
I served it over polenta tossed with toasted pine nuts and raisins. Couscous would be more traditional of course, but we're still trying the gluten-nixing experiment.
I am reaffirming my need to stay away from eggplant! Eggplant was just never meant to be cooked in my kitchen. I kill it no matter what.
If you make the recipe below, don't do what I did. Cook your eggplant separately.
Chicken with Zalouk
1 4-5 pound chicken, spine removed and flattened
1/2 cup + 2 Tbl olive oil
2 tsp cumin, divided
1 tsp salt, divided
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
3/4 cup fresh parsley
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp parika
5 cloves garlic
1-2 medium to large eggplants (oridnary purple ones are fine), diced
1 pint campari tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 onion, diced
Salt for sweating eggplant
Place eggplant chunks in a colander and toss with salt. Allow to sit at least 30 minutes, until a fair amount of the juices have drained off. Rinse.
Soak a terra cotta oven in water for 15 minutes.
In a blender or small food processor mix parsley, half the salt, garlic, half the cumin, 1/2 cup olive oil, and lemon juice until well blended into a smooth sauce.
Toss eggplant chunks, tomatoes and onion with the sauce. Make sure everything is well coated.
Rub the chicken with remaining olive oil, the other half of the salt and the cumin, and the coriander. Place the eggplant mixture into the clay pot. Place chicken on top.
(If you're smart, you'll put the eggplant on a baking sheet and cook it that way until it's nice and soft).
Place the pot in a cold oven. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Cook for about 75 minutes.