2.26.2014

Moroccan Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemons




I think it’s safe to say the entire East Coast is ready for Spring to arrive, like yesterday.  Although we did have a bit of teaser this past weekend, with two beautiful warm and sunny days, it seems like this Polar Vortex is not ready to loosen it’s death grip on us just yet.   What’s a girl who’s dreaming about spring to do? COLOR.  Color my hair, color my wardrobe and color my dinner.  For me, color brings warmth and happiness to everything.  And who couldn’t use a little warmth and happiness with the winter we’re having?

This Moroccan Chicken Tagine is perfect for dreaming of Spring, with its colorful spices and tangy lemony flavor, while still being comforting and hearty enough to keep us warm on these dreaded cold nights.


Tagine is both the name of a pot and of a dish itself.  A tagine is a clay pot with a round shallow base and a cone or dome shaped cover with a knob on top for easy removal.  The shape of the pot is designed so that condensation rises to the top and then drips back down keeping the meat moist and tender.  A tagine is typically hand painted or glazed and very pretty.  If you have one it will make for a striking presentation on your table.  Here is a beautiful one from Williams Sonoma, http://www.williams-sonoma.com.  It's definitely on my kitchen wish list.  Most tagine dishes are cooked in an actual tagine pot but don't worry if you don't have a tagine, as most people don't, you can use a dutch oven as I did or any heavy bottomed pan.

I love making tagines because similarly to braising, you can use less expensive cuts of meats that break down and become tender during longer cooking times, but even better, most tagines don't require initial browning.  It's one pot cooking at its best.


Chicken Tagine With Preserved Lemons: Adapted from Gourmet's Adventures with Ruth: Season One: Peggy Markel's Morocco

This tagine is made with a classic combination of preserved lemons and olives (coincidentally two of my favorite things in the whole world.) The recipe was pretty great as is but I made some minor adjustments and additions.  I used boneless and skinless chicken thighs instead of a whole quartered chicken.  I also added sliced almonds for the great texture and crunch that they give.   I served it on whole wheat couscous but you can serve it with some flat bread as well.  You don't need to do anything special to the couscous as the chicken is full of flavor already,  just let it soak up all of the juices and enjoy.


Ingredients: Serves 4 

8 boneless skinless chicken thighs

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 medium red onions,  sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 teaspoon saffron threads
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped plus 1 tablespoon chopped for garnish
2 preserved lemons
1/2 cup purple olives, Moroccan, Greek, or Gaeta ( I used Gaeta)
2 heaping tablespoons of sliced almonds
Salt and Pepper
1 box whole wheat couscous


Procedure:

1. Lightly season both sides of chicken with salt and pepper.   Careful not to use too much salt here as the olives and preserved lemon will add a salty taste to the dish.  Place in the pot.

2. Lightly toast the saffron in a dry skillet, until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Set aside and let cool.

3. Chop the garlic as finely as possible then add a 1/2 teaspoon of salt on top and mash it with the back of the knife or use a mortar and pestle if you have one.  You want to create a paste.





4. Add the olive oil, onions, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, lime juice,  and 3 tablespoons of cilantro to the pot with the chicken. 

5. Crumble the saffron on top of everything in the pot and mix.  





6. Cut the preserved lemons in 4 and scrape the pulp from the skin.  I found the easiest way to do this was with a spoon.  Give the pulp a rough chop.  My jar of preserved lemons had two little peppers in it as well which I chopped up and added to the mix. 






7. After you have mixed everything, arrange the chicken on top of the onions in the pot and sprinkle the lemon pulp on top. 





8. Pour 3/4 cups of water on top and simmer covered for 30-40 minutes until chicken is almost cooked through.  Make sure to periodically check that chicken is not burning or sticking to the bottom and add more water if needed. 

9. Add the olives, cover and cook for 10 more minutes until chicken is completely cooked. Once cooked add almonds and stir.  

10. In the meantime cook couscous according to package instructions. 

11. Place couscous on a plate top with chicken, sauce and sprinkle with fresh cilantro.   

ENJOY!! 


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