Algerian Chicken with Quince
According to Clemence Barkate, an Algerian now living in France, the traditional Rosh HaShanah dish served in her home city of Constantine was chicken with eggplant, honey, and quince (a hard and crisp fruit resembling something between an apple and a Bartlett pear and has a perfume-like fragrance when cooked). The last two ingredients are symbolic of the sweetness of the coming year and the new fruit of the season. I created this recipe based on her recollections.
- Cut the quinces in quarters and remove the hard core and seeds. Peel each quarter, then cut crosswise into about five 1⁄2-inch slices per quarter. Place the cut pieces in a bowl of lemon juice and water. Set aside.
- Cut the onion in half lengthwise, then cut each half into 1⁄2-inch dice.
- Heat a 12-inch sauté pan for 15 seconds over moderately high heat. Add 2 Tablespoons of olive oil and heat for another 10 seconds. Add the onions and stir to coat with the oil. Cover the pan for 3 minutes to let the onions caramelize, then remove the lid and stir the onions. Cook for about another 3 minutes, until the onions are golden. Remove the onions from the pan and set aside.
- Combine the flour, salt, and pepper in a gallon-size plastic bag. Rinse off the chicken pieces and remove large pieces of fat. Shake off any excess water. Place 2 or 3 pieces of chicken in the bag at a time. Shake the chicken well enough to thoroughly coat with the seasoned flour.
- Heat the pan used for sautéing the onions. If the pan appears dry, add 1 Tablespoon of the remaining olive oil and heat for 10 seconds.
- Place the coated chicken pieces skin side down in the hot oil and cook until the skin is crisp and brown (about 3–5 minutes). Turn the chicken over and cook another 3 minutes.
- Combine the wine and water and add to the hot pan, being careful not to burn yourself with the gusts of steam that will come from the pan.
- Return the onions to the pan. Add the cinnamon and honey, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover.
- Remove the quince slices from the lemon water and pat dry. Heat a 10-inch sauté pan for 15 seconds, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, then heat for another 10 seconds. Add the quince slices and stir. Reduce the heat, cover, and cook for about 10 minutes, until the quince slices are lightly golden and softening.
- Transfer the quince slices to the pan with the chicken pieces. Try to evenly distribute the slices around the chicken. Cover and continue cooking while you prepare the eggplant.
- Slice the eggplant in half lengthwise, then cut each half crosswise into 1⁄2-inch slices.
- Add the eggplant to the same pan used for the quince. If the pan is very dry, add 1 Tablespoon of olive oil and lightly sauté for 5 minutes, softening the eggplant slightly. Add the eggplant slices to the chicken and place the onion-wine sauce on top. Cover the pan and cook for another 15 minutes, until the eggplant is soft but not disintegrating and the chicken is tender.
- Serve either with couscous (traditional) or rice.
- Quince tastes quite tart when eaten raw, but becomes mild and lightly floral-scented when cooked.