There are few dishes as beautiful and unique as a Moroccan tagine. It's a mélange of seemingly disparate spices and ingredients like saffron, dried fruit, ginger, olives, and preserved lemons. But these flavors blend harmoniously and reflect Morocco's history as a crossroads between the Middle East, Africa and Europe. Tagine is a method of slow-cooking different types of vegetables and meat over low heat. This stew is simmered in a tagine pot that has a shallow base and beautiful conical shaped lid, which traps and redistributes the moisture. A traditional tagine is made in this pot over coals infusing earthy and smoky qualities into the stew.
In preparation for this meal I was tempted to buy a clay tagine. But in my teeny tiny kitchen, which is overflowing with ethnic-specific cooking tools, it would be the straw that broke the camel's back and collapse my strategic shelving. In my ideal kitchen, I would have acres of space to store my various cooking tools and utensils from every village or city around the world. If you are lucky enough to have this sort of space, I would highly recommend purchasing one. The key to a delicious tagine is cooking the dish slowly at a low temperature, producing aromatic and succulent meat. Good things come in time, and your highly refined taste buds will thank you for it.
This chicken tagine is studded with unexpected bold flavors like sweet raisins, briny olives, saffron-soaked soft onions, and my favorite ingredient, preserved lemon. It takes a few weeks to preserve lemons yourself, but the process is so simple that you can make a large batch and just let it sit in the refrigerator for immediate use in the future.
Recipe adapted from Dinners and Dreams, a fabulous Moroccan food blog!
- 1 large whole large chicken, butchered into 6 parts
- 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 1 cup of red or green olives, pitted and rinsed
- 1/2 cup of raisins
- 1 tbsp of parsley, chopped
- 1 tbsp of cilantro, chopped
- 1 preserved lemon, rinsed well and peel thinly sliced (discard pulp)
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3 pinches of saffron
- 1/4 tsp of turmeric
- 1 tsp of ground ginger
- 2 1/2 cups of water
- 2 tbsps of melted butter
- olive oil
- kosher or sea salt and ground pepper
In a mixing bowl, combine the garlic, saffron, ground ginger, turmeric, a pinch of salt and ground pepper, and a couple glugs of olive oil. Pour the mixture over the chicken and reserve any leftover marinade.
In a tagine or a large heavy pot heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat and add the onions in. Cook for a few minutes until they have softened and are turning translucent. Pour the rest of the marinade over the onions and nestle the chicken on top of the onions skin side up. Cover the chicken with the 2 1/2 cups of water. Cover with a lid and let it simmer on low heat for about 45-50 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees with the rack on the highest position. Remove the chicken when it's done simmering and place it on a baking sheet, skin side up. Brush the skin with the melted butter and bake until the skin gets golden, about 10 minutes.
Continue simmering the sauce and add the parsley, cilantro, raisins, olives and preserved lemon. Let the mixture simmer and reduce for about 15 minutes over low heat. Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper to taste. Don't forget the preserved lemon and olives will add a significant amount of salt so salt after you've added the rest of the ingredients.
Place the chicken back in the sauce and serve with couscous and more olives and preserved lemons.
Don't forget to check out Val's iCook Moroccan chicken with apricot couscous too!