Part of my Times Union story in February 2022. Read it here, and see the recipe below.
Winter weekends beg for a big pot of simmering soup, and this recipe delivers on warmth and flavor. Moroccan food is famouWinter weekends beg for a big pot of simmering soup, and this recipe delivers on warmth and flavor. Moroccan food is famous for its slew of spices, sometimes a head-spinning amount. All of that spice is most often combined with gentle sweetness in Moroccan recipes, creating depth and rich flavor that is anything but boring. Here, turmeric, paprika and cumin are stirred together with a touch of cinnamon and a dash of cayenne. The cinnamon might sound like a funny thing to add to chicken soup but it fits like a pair of flannel pajamas. Cozy, indeed. And that touch of gentle sweetness? Here, it’s in the form of sautéed red onions and chunks of tender sweet potato. Important in the preparation of this dish is the order in which you add protein and vegetables. Cook the chicken first, then add the sweet potatoes, otherwise they’ll turn to mush. The general spirit of this soup is a nod to Morocco’s most famous dish: the tagine. Here, all of those wondrous spices, heady aromatics and bits of flavor (the olives, cilantro, lemon) are reminiscent of the thick stews served under the conical top of a tagine lid. The soup is good with a thick piece of stretchy bread, for soaking up the juices.
Moroccan Chicken Soup
½ red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon cayenne (or to taste)
1 ½ lbs chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces (see note)
1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
4 cups homemade chicken broth (or unsalted if canned)
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
2 cups chopped tender greens (baby kale or spinach)
1 cup Israeli or pearl couscous, cooked according to the package (about 3 cups cooked)
1 small handful fresh cilantro, chopped
Green olives, for serving
Lemon wedges, for serving
- In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat a swirl of olive oil over a medium-low flame. Cook the onion, stirring, until very soft and starting to brown. Add the garlic and ginger, and cook, stirring, for another minute or two, until fragrant but not browned. Stir in the spices and salt, and add a bit more oil. Cook, stirring, for a minute.
- Add the chicken, tomatoes and chicken broth, and a pinch of salt if your broth is unsalted. Bring to a gentle simmer and cover. Cook for 15 minutes, then add the sweet potatoes and simmer for another 15 minutes. The potatoes should be fork tender and the chicken shreddable. Add the greens and remove from the heat.
- Allow to cool for a few minutes, then stir in the couscous. Taste the broth and add salt and pepper, if desired. Serve warm or room temperature with cilantro, green olives and lemon.
- Note: the total cheater way here is to substitute the meat of an entire rotisserie chicken. If you use cooked meat, add it after the sweet potato is tender.