Comfort food for a cold winter’s evening, this Moroccan-inspired dish of braised boneless chicken thighs with dried apricots, green olives, and herbed couscous is one way to stay home and still feel like you’re traveling. I’ve made this dish over and over for guests (and my wife) since first hearing it described on television years ago. (Read Casablanca Chicken for the Winter Win.)

A few notes: I use a fragrant cinnamon I buy from Penzey’s spices, but a combination of cinnamon and ground coriander is nice, too. I like to cut the carrots and parsnips into bite-size pieces. Since pitting olives is a lot of work, I often buy the pitted green Manzanillo olives stuffed with pimentos, but if you can find other pitted green olives, great. In a pinch, pitted kalamata olives will do. If you want to vary the amount of couscous you make, just use  a combination of two parts orange juice and one part water for the liquids.

Serves 4

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 to 10 boneless chicken thighs (about 2 to 2 1/2 pounds)
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup seasoned flour (I like to season with a combination of garlic powder, dill, dry mustard and paprika or a bit of Penzey’s Sunny Paris spice)
  • 1 ½ cups large-diced carrots, peeled and trimmed (about 8 to 9 ounces before trimming)
  • 1 ½ cups large-diced parsnips, peeled and trimmed (about 8 to 9 ounces before trimming)
  • 1 ½ cups large-diced onions 1 medium (6-ounce) white onion, large-diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3 large cloves garlic minced
  • 2 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 7 ounces dried apricots, cut in half (about 1 1/3 cups, packed)
  • 5 ounces jarred pitted Manzanilla olives (or a combination of pitted green and black olives)
  • 24 ounces low-sodium chicken broth 
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 1/4 cups couscous
  • ¼ cup roughly chopped mint  
  • 2 tablespoons roughly chopped cilantro 
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1. Heat the oven to 375°F.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a heavy bottomed casserole or medium-large (5- to 6-quart) Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season the chicken thighs liberally with salt and pepper, dredge with seasoned flour, and brown in the hot oil for four to six minutes on each side. Transfer to a rimmed sheet pan or plate to hold. Repeat with remaining olive oil and chicken, reserving all the chicken on the sheet pan.

3. Add the onions, carrots, and parsnips to the pot. Cook, stirring, for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the vegetables are lightly browned. Stir in the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds or until fragrant.

4. Add the cinnamon, the coriander, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, the apricots, and the olives. Cook, stirring to incorporate, a few seconds or until the spices are fragrant.

5. Return the chicken to the pot, add the chicken broth, and stir and scrape the bottom and sides of the pan. Bring the liquid to a simmer. Cover with a tight fitting lid and transfer to the oven. Cook for 30 minutes.   

6. Meanwhile, combine the orange juice, 1/4 cup water, and 1 teaspoon salt in a small pot. Bring the mixture to a boil, remove the pot from the heat, and quickly add the couscous. Stir and cover right away with a tight-fitting lid. Let stand for 10 minutes. 

7. Transfer the couscous to a mixing bowl and fluff with a fork. Combine the herbs and scallions, and add half of the mixture to the couscous. Mix until well-combined. Transfer to a serving dish.

8. Transfer the pot of chicken from the oven to a medium-low burner on the stovetop. Stir in the butter until completely melted. To serve family-style, sprinkle the top of the chicken with the remaining scallion and herb mixture and serve. Alternatively, portion couscous into shallow bowls, top with the chicken and pot juices, and top each with some of the herb-scallion mixture.