Monday was the festival Tu b’Shvat or New Year for the Trees. It is a Jewish tradition to eat tree fruits on Tu b’Shvat, particularly grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates, but other tree fruits are eaten as well. What tree fruit says Pacific Northwest if not apples? I had read that apple stew was a “thing” in Persian cooking, so I looked at a variety of recipes, some using beef and others chicken. They were all quite different from each other, so I decided to create my own version.
Making a fruit-based stew was a risky thing to do in my house since my Persian husband does not like “sweet” in his dinners. I tempered the sweetness of the apples and apricots with the warmth of advieh and the acidity of lemon juice and cider vinegar. The result was a home run – a warm, yet bright stew with great flavor and textures. He even admitted that his favorite part were the apricots – amazing!
We also found that the chicken and onions, with the turmeric and advieh were delicious simply as they were. So, another option will be to make those and serve them with rice.
But tonight was to be a celebration of trees… with apples and apricots. Another successful mix of our heritages.
Chicken Stew with Apples and Dried Apricots (Khoresh-e Morgh ba Seeb o Zardaloo)
3-4 firm apples
2 Tbsp lemon juice, separated
3 Tbsp olive oil, separated
1 large onion, chopped
1 tsp turmeric
½ tsp advieh
1½ lbs skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1 Tbsp flour
1/8 tsp saffron, ground and mixed with hot water
½ cup dried apricots
1 tomato, chopped
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup water
Peel and core the apples, then cut into wedges (typically 8 – 10 per apple). Place in a bowl and toss with 1 Tbsp lemon juice. Set aside.
In a large skillet, heat 1½ Tbsp oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until soft and lightly browned. Add the turmeric and advieh, cook another minute, stirring to mix in the spices.
Add the chicken and brown on both sides, sprinkle the flour over the chicken pieces before turning the thighs over. Season with salt and pepper. Once the chicken is browned, remove the onions and chicken to a plate to cool.
Wipe out the skillet and heat 1½ Tbsp oil. Add the apple wedges and sauté for about 5 minutes – the apples should cook through, but stay whole. Add the prepared saffron and stir through. Remove to a bowl.
Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and return the chicken and onions to the skillet. Place the apples, apricots and tomato on top. Mix together the remaining 1 Tbsp of lemon juice with 2 Tbsp cider vinegar, pour over the chicken and fruit.
Add ½ cup water, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and cook covered for 8 – 10 minutes.
Remove the cover and continue cooking for another 8-10 minutes, til the fruit is soft, but not falling apart.
Serve with rice and enjoy!