There’s something about the appeal of sweet and spicy, smokey and tang that is just, just, well….pretty darn good! (can’t think of any fancy adjectives right now) This dish is easy to make, but will impress just about anyone. It brings together flavors that some people in the Midwest are unfamiliar with eating.
Tarmarind is most commonly found as a paste or concentrate. It has a sour earthy flavor. You can combine the paste with sugar and boiling water to make a syrup for flavoring dinner to drinks! It can be found in Middle Eastern, Indian, and Latin stores. I had read about it a few times and came across my first jar of paste about a year or so ago. It tasted to me like sour orange, a favorite flavor in many Mexican dishes.
I’ve made a few dishes using it, but none to its full glory in my opinion…until today. I read about making the syrup from the paste and using it with chipotle and adobo sauce. The dish had me cooking a whole chicken in it and no vegetables. Why not use my husband’s smoked chicken that we make in batches, cut into bite size and freeze? Or use deli chicken? It could be prepared much faster. I could saute onions and peppers as well. The recipe calls for apricots and their preserves. I just used dried apricots and added them to the syrup for a little “stewing” time of their own before going into the main dish. I made this dish in about 45 minutes, perfect for a weeknight meal.
Adding the adobo and chipotles really brings all the flavors together. You can control the heat by how much you add. My family likes some heat, but we don’t want it to steal the show. A sprinkle of roasted pistachios before serving adds some crunch and pairs well with the apricot-tamarind flavors. Serve this as is or over your favorite cooked grain.
For 6 servings
3 cups cooked grain of your choice (we like farro for this)
To make the tamarind syrup:
3 Tbs tamarind paste or concentrate
1/2 cup raw sugar
1/2 cup boiling water
Combine paste, sugar and water in a small bowl. Stir until the sugar dissolves. For this dish, stir in the chopped apricots. Set this aside for now.
3/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 cup chopped peppers (sweet, not hot)
2 cups of chopped smoked (or deli) cooked chicken
1 cup water or chicken broth
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce and 2 Tbs of adobo sauce (more or less to suite your tastes)
2/3 cup roasted and shelled pistachios, coarsely chopped
Put your grains onto cook. While the grains cook…..
Place a large nonreactive skillet (not your cast iron for this one) over medium heat, add a good drizzle of olive oil and the chopped onions. Saute until the onions begin to soften. Add the peppers, stir and continue to cook, about 10 minutes. Pour in the water/broth, the tamarind syrup with apricots and your smoked chicken. Add the chipotle and adobo sauce. Give it all a good stirring. Taste the broth for spice level. Remember the sauce will reduce and the spice intensity will go up a bit as well. Reduce heat slightly to a high simmer and let the sauce reduce until slightly thickens and mostly adsorbed. Taste and adjust seasoning for salt and adobo sauce.
Serve hot over prepared grains and sprinkle with pistachios. Enjoy!