For years, way before I’d ever given the least thought to learning how to cook, I spent many a weekend evening sitting at my friend Carolyn’s kitchen counter, glass of wine in hand, chatting with friends while she prepared us a great dinner. Then she and Barrie deserted Seattle for Bozeman!–What now?
Well, seven years without dinner is too long, so my friend Mary and I hopped a plane for a weekend visit. Back in Carolyn’s kitchen once again! She’s a planner, so by the time we got there she already had her mise pretty much en place; while she put the finishing touches on her delicious chicken and squash tagine, our tasks amounted to the old ones of chat and sip.
I’ve become a city person; from the deck off my kitchen, I can touch the magnolia that shades my whole back garden, and I can nod at my neighbors digging in their vegetable plot a few feet away on the other side of my trellis fence. Barrie and Carolyn offer an entirely different proposition!-We are in the West now. Here’s my friend Mary, pouring herself a judicious glass of wine for dinner, in front of the sweeping backdrop that is Barrie and Carolyn’s back yard. And here are Barrie and Carolyn themselves, about to tuck into our dinner spread. I took the seat on this side of the table, looking across the dip and swell of the field to the blue edge of the mountains in the distance, so I could savor the dinner and the view as well.
(An aside: among their many talents, Barrie and Carolyn are musicians, and lately they’ve been performing with a Bozeman group called the DupliKates. Check it out!–Carolyn’s in the straw hat and slacks and Barrie’s behind that post on keyboard.)
Carolyn shared her recipe (below) for the chicken and squash tagine, which she actually made in a Dutch oven. Delicious! I’ll make it myself soon and let you know if I do as good a job as she did. But before I go, I just have to tell you about the next couple of days that Carolyn and Mary and I spent in Yellowstone Park!-A first for me. Have you seen pictures of Old Faithful?–I took some too, but it struck me as the tamest of the park’s features. The acres of steaming, muttering pools and vents that perforate the thin crust of the ground make the world seem about two days old! The commentary on the interpretive boards carries the ominous news that the timing or force of the numerous geysers has been altered repeatedly (and recently) by explosive releases of pent-up pressure. As I take in this information, I’m standing with say a dozen other people on a boardwalk over a pool of boiling water swelling up from a black worm-hole that coils down who knows how deep. Faintly, the question forms . . . is this a good idea?
The water in Yellowstone pounds down as well as boiling up. Before we left the park, we also climbed a few hundred steps down a metal stairway bolted to the side of a mountain to get a head-on view of the magnificent Lower Falls–then the next day walked to the platform at the top of the Falls (barely visible at the top right edge) for a top-down look. So before I go back to my kitchen, I’ll leave you with this uncharacteristically outdoorsy shot of myself!
Carolyn’s Chicken and Squash Tagine
- 1 recipe Moroccan spice mixture (see recipe below)
- 2 pounds meaty chicken pieces (breast halves, thighs, and drumsticks), skinned
- 3 teaspoons olive oil
- 2 medium onions, cut into wedges
- 6 large garlic cloves, halved lengthwise
- 5 to 6 threads saffron, crushed
- One 2-1/2 to 3-pound butternut squash, seeded, peeled, and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 cup chicken broth or water
- 1 cup golden raisins
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1/4 cup snipped fresh parsley
- Prepare the Moroccan spice mixture. Rub the chicken pieces with 1 tablespoon of it.
- In a 4-quart Dutch oven, heat 2 teaspoons oil over medium heat. Add the chicken. Cook, uncovered, for 6 to 8 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Remove chicken.
- Add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil to the Dutch oven. Add the onions, garlic, and saffron. Cook and stir over medium heat for 2 minutes.
- Add the squash. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of the spice mixture; toss.
- Add the chicken and broth. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 1 hour.
- Add the raisins; cover and cook for 10 to 25 minutes more until the chicken is done and squash is tender.
- Meanwhile, make couscous. (You can find it with the rice and other grains in your grocery store; follow the directions on the box.)
- To serve, put the couscous on your serving platter and top with the chicken mixture. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle with parsley.
Moroccan spice mixture (makes about 3 tablespoons):
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp crushed red pepper
- 1 tsp ground cardamom
- 1 tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp ground pepper