Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemons and Olives

I have to be honest.  Brutally honest.  I love kitchen gadgets, kitchen pans, kitchen pots, baking dishes. The list goes on and on and on.  Can I share a secret with you?  When I saw this pot I absolutely knew I had to have it- and that I'd figure out later what I might do with it when it lived in my kitchen rather than on a store shelf.  It was a very welcome newcomer!

The pot is a Tagine pot- and harks from northern Africa- Morocco to be exact.  Its' magic is said to result from the steam that clings to the side of the dome top as it rises and then slowly makes its way back down again to make the dish so very, very moist and tender. Now I think it's possible to make this dish without this pot- and it might taste the same- or even better. I wouldn't know. I haven't tried.  But even if it doesn't have quite the magic that this Tagine Pot brings to the cooking, this recipe is really, really, really worth your time.  

You're going to love it. I promise. And your guests are going to love it.  And everyone will keep coming back for more.

Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemons requires a bit of a "plan ahead" detail.  It's not much trouble to gather all the ingredients- except for one- THE PRESERVED LEMONS!  The first time I made this dish I followed the exact details- I planned well in advance.  Because you see with Preserved Lemons you have to plan way, way in advance- like 2-3 weeks in advance.  You can tell right away that regardless of how good this meal is going to turn out if you have begin preparations 2-3 weeks in advance it just isn't going to happen very often.  Not very often at all. 

But then I found the short cut- And since I've now made the dish with both the LONG version of Preserved Lemons as well as the SHORT version of Preserved Lemons I can absolutely assure you that it really doesn't make a difference.  I'm sticking with the short version.  With this recipe you only need to start the day before, though if you change your mind and decide to cook something else the preserved lemons will last just fine in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.  And if unforeseen circumstances arrive and you aren't going to make this glorious dish after all then these lemons are equally great in a stir fry.

But for the details!


Slice 2 lemons into 1/4 inch slices removing seeds as you slice.   Place in small sauce pan. Add 2 tbsp of salt (1 per lemon) and then juice from 1 lemon plus enough water to made a cup total of liquid.

Simmer on the stove for 30 minutes until the skin of the lemon softens and the liquid is reduced to about 1/2 of cup.

Put in a jar and refrigerate until ready to use.

So now that you have the magic ingredient- and maybe even the magic pot it's time to make the Tagine!

Tagine of Chicken with Olives and Preserved Lemon: Adapted from Cafe Morocco by Anissa Helou

Chickens: 2, cut into pieces (I use 4 legs, 4 thighs and 2 breasts and saved the rest for chicken soup.  You can use all thighs if you wish.)

Onions, 2, cut into wedges
Green olives, I cup, pitted
Preserved Lemons, 2 (at least 24 hours old, but not the liquid)
Garlic, 2 cloves (or more if you like garlic and we do), minced
Parsley, 1 bunch with stems removed and then minced though not too fine
Lemon, 1, juiced.

Coriander seed, 1 tbsp
Cumin seed, 1 tbsp
Ginger, 1 tbsp, grated
Cinnamon, 3 whole sticks

Olive oil, 2 tbsp
Butter, 2 tbsp

Pepper the chicken (there is plenty of salt in the Preserved Lemons so you won't need any additional for this dish).
Heat olive oil and butter in Tagine Pot until butter is melted.
Add the coriander, cumin, ginger, garlic and brown.
Brown the chicken on all sides and then remove from the pot.
Add the onions and soften.
Return the chicken to the pot and add the cinnamon and the Preserved Lemons.  Pour the lemon juice over the chicken.

Cover the Tagine Pot and heat on the stove.  Meanwhile preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
When the oven is hot, place the pan in the oven.

I love this picture so much I just have to use it twice!

After about  1- 1/2 hours take the Tagine Pot out of the oven and add the olives and the parsley. Return to the oven for another hour.  Check for doneness at this time.  

The chicken should be very, very tender.  If the chicken is cooked to desired tenderness then place the Tagine on the top of the stove with the dome in place over a very low simmer- just to keep warm.

I served with buttered couscous and a roasted orange and beet salad!

Let the party begin!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Lemon Coconut Crinkle Cookies: Welcome To Our New Kitchen

You probably thought we'd left for good- maybe dropped off the face of the earth.  Or, gasp, stopped cooking.  Well- only for the "stopped cooking" are you a bit close to the truth- but of course not the whole truth.  

It started with just "too much", "too distracted", "too busy"... The regular list that keeps us all from doing the things that we intend to do while we meander in the land of the "maybe tomorrow".  

We actually had a recipe and pictures ready for a post whose tomorrow never came.

And then we stopped cooking.  Really.  I mean it.  We stopped cooking.  For seven long months we were exiled into the world of "which restaurant do we go to YET AGAIN", punctuated with respite in the homes and kitchens of friends and family, while our kitchen was remodeled.  The kind of remodeling that cannot be ignored- the kind that makes you suffer as you dream of even a grilled cheese cooked at home!

And now we're back- and cooking. Again.  So let's start with cookies.

 Now when we ended our blogging last March (1 year and 3 days ago), we posted a recipe for Chicken Liver and Spinach Frittata.  And of course Don HATES chicken livers.  As we begin cooking again this first post is all about Don- and a cookie he can't get enough of.  Honest, he's addicted in a big way.  I don't think he is able to pass that Cookie Jar Nook tucked in between the dining room and the kitchen without having at least one- and from the looks of how quickly that jar is emptying, maybe two.

Now our house is a very old house, a very old house indeed. Circa 1894.  And the kitchen was added some years after the original house was built.  You get to the kitchen by passing through a short hall from the the dining room (passing on the left, the stairs down to the basement- "scary basement" according to more than one grandchild, or up the back stairs to the second floor- also a "rite of passage" for the grandchild that is suddenly brave enough to take the narrow wooden back stairs).  On the right was a narrow and very shallow pantry with bi-fold doors, something that truly did not complement our new kitchen. Our very dear and amazingly talented master carpenter for our remodeling project had a vision and designed a Cookie Jar Nook welcoming visitors into our new kitchen.

So now my job is to keep cookies in the cookie jar!  And you're going to love these cookies whether you have a Cookie Jar Nook or not!  Bet you can't eat just one!

LEMON COCONUT CRINKLE COOKIES: Adapted from http://www.chocolatemoosey.com/2013/04/09/lemon-coconut-crinkle-cookies/

Preheat Oven to 325 Degrees

Dry Ingredients: 
Flour: 1 1/2 cups
Baking Powder: 2 tsp
Salt: 1/4 tsp

Mix together and set to the side.

Wet Ingredients:
Butter, softened: 4 Tbsp
Sugar: 1 cup
Cream together in stand mixer until  very well blended.

Eggs: 2
Lemon Zest: 1 large or two small lemons
Mix well.
Lemon Juice: 1/2 of a large lemon or all the juice from a small lemon
Coconut Flavoring: 1 tsp (optional)
Mix well.

Add the dry ingredients to the mixer bowl and mix just until the flour isn't visible.

Coconut, Shredded: 1 cup (sweetened or unsweetened).

Refrigerate batter for at least one hour to firm.

Roll batter into balls and roll in Powdered Sugar. 

Bake for 13-15 minutes depending on how soft you like your cookies.