We had gone to a friends house for dinner last to last weekend & I must admit that I had the most exotic dish from Morocco cooked in an even more exotic dish,the base for the dish is cast iron to reatin the heat , but the lid is porcelain and is cone shaped which is essentially designed like this to trap all the moisture and steam and gives the Tagine chicken a melt -in-the-mouth texture,very succulent and juicy. Although in Morocco where Tagine Chicken originally hails from is cooked in a ceramic or porcelain Tagine where the base is also porcelain.I looked up google to see where I could acquire my tagine from and found a very nice one online at Williams Sonoma,again all porcelain. I went ahead and ordered it BUT decided I could not wait long enough for the Tagine to arrive :) so I went ahead and prepared tagine chicken in the cast iron french oven after all the french oven/Dutch ovens are also designed for the slowly simmered dishes. I was thrilled with the result,it tasted exactly as my friends tagine if not better;) The citric y soup with green olives and herby flavors from parsley and cilantro is such a refreshing change for the palette and is such a treat to enjoy this with couscous accompanied with the fiery spicy hot harissa. Mmm.mmmm
The preparation is very simple but the prep work has some steps involved but trust me once you have the prep work done in advance the Tagine cooking can be a breeze.Yes-It is that simple,and the best part is I left it in the dutch oven to cook and went to the basement and did my 40 minute workout without a care.....
Tagine chicken is prepared with preserved green olives & preserved lemons ,I was told by my friend that I should look for the preserved lemons online but I did not have the patience to wait and also it does not take a genius to make your own at home so I went shopping and picked up some fresh green lemons,I also got a good deal at an Indian store and picked up 12 for $ 2 Yes- I am such a sucker for deals :)
The chicken tagine is mostly served with Couscous or bread and is served with Harissa a hot,spicy sauce made with Red Chilies and a few other spices again you can look it up on Amazon or get ready to make some from scratch. I did just that and the result was incredible and worth every inch of effort that went in the preparation:)
So friends are you ready to be transported to Morocco if the answer is YES than come with me and we shall soon embark on this Moroccan culinary explosion of flavors:
Ingredients for Tagine Chicken With Olives & Preserved lemons:
Chicken Thighs: Boneless,skinless about 5-6
Fresh Parsley: fistful cleaned and chopped
Cilantro: Fistful Cleaned and chopped
Garlic: 1 tsp paste
Ginger: 1 tbsp paste
Salt: 1tsp or to taste
cayenne Pepper: 1/2 tsp
Garam Masala: a pinch
Kesar/saffron: 4-5 strands ( A very good Spanish variety is available at Trader Joes)
To be added later:
White onion chopped fine: 1 cup
Green Olives preserved in salt water: 20-25
Preserved lemon quartered: 8 pieces ( 1 lemon)
Parsely: washed and chopped a fistful
Cilantro: washed and chopped a fistful
Olive oil: 4 tbsp
Chicken Stalk: 6 cups
Recipe for Preserved Lemons:
Lemons: 12 washed and dried
Lemons juice: 1 cup
Kosher salt: 2 tbsp
1. Take the lemons and either prick the whole lemon with a fork or cut it into four pieces.
2. Take a clean dry glass jar, drop the lemon pieces in it.
3. Add the salt.
4. Top it with lemon juice.
5. Shake it and let it stay in room temperature with the lid tightly shut. If possible move it to a spot in the house where there is plenty of sunlight.
It will take 4- 5 days and you will see the skin will turn a slight brown color,and will become a little soft.
6. You can now store it in the fridge.
Recipe for Harissa:
Dried Red Chilies: 6-8 seeds removed
Cumin: 1 tsp
Whole coriander: 1 tbsp
Black pepper: 8-10 peppercorns
Saindhav Salt or Rock salt: 1 tsp or to taste
Roasted red bell pepper: 1/2 cup
Olive oil: 4 tbsp
Lemon Juice: 2 tbsp
1.Roast all the spices on slow.
2. let them cool and grind these to a fine powder in a coffee grinder.
3. Transfer this to a food processor and add the remaining ingredients and grind them till you have a smooth sauce/chutney
Method to cook Tagine:
1. Marinate the chicken thighs with all the ingredients mentioned under marination for 1 hour.
2. Put the dutch oven on medium high heat for some time till it is hot.
3. Add the 4 tbsp olive oil.
4. When hot add the 1 cup of finely chopped onions
5. when onions are slightly golden brown add the marinated chicken and fry on both sides for a minute or 2 on each side.
6. Add the chicken stalk.Let it come to a boil,reduce the flame to slow and cover and let it cook for 40 minutes. Forget about it if cooking in the dutch oven.
7. Remove the lid and slide in the lemons and olives and close the lid and cook again for 15 minutes.
8. When done sprinkle the chopped parsley and cilantro and serve it with couscous and harissa.
Notes: Couscous is very easy to prepare and you can follow the directions given on the packet. I have used three different brands on three occasions viz: Near Easts Pine toasted Couscous,Hodgsons Whole wheat and Scalfani. I am happy with all,it takes exactly 2 minutes to prepare this and even less to finish it...hahahah