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!

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