An exotic stew with deep flavors that is served all over Morocco, tagine is a traditional Berber dish that takes its name from the cone-shaped vessel that it is cooked in. The ceramic arts were brought to North Africa by the Romans, and Moroccans have been using the heavy clay dishes for cooking ever since. With a low, circular base and conical lid, this unique cookware traps all the steam and condensation inside, creating a moist and flavorful dish. Served family-style to the whole table, this delicious chicken tagine recipe is a well-rounded sampling of the flavors of Morocco: fresh citrus, pungent olives and bright turmeric.
A hearty dish of roast meats, fruits and vegetables, tagine gets its personality from the many spices that make up its rich, flavorful sauce. Turmeric along with cumin, paprika, ginger and cinnamon lend a spicy complexity to each tagine. From goat tagine with peas to fish tagine with capers and lamb tagine with prunes, there is a seemingly endless variety of tagine – however the lemon, olive and chicken dish is definitely one of the local favorites.
For best results, use preserved lemon rinds, which are lemon peelings that have been pickled in salt and lemon juice. A staple of Middle Eastern cooking, preserved lemons have a tart, stout flavor and are easy to make – if you have three weeks to wait while they preserve. Otherwise, just use fresh lemon rinds and be sure to add a bit more salt.
If you don’t have a tagine dish, just use a heavy, large saucepan with a thick bottom and lid that seals. This one-dish wonder is relatively quick to make and pairs well with a Spanish Rioja or dry Riesling wine.
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
Rind of one lemon – preserved or fresh
1 organic chicken (about 3.5 pounds) cut into eight pieces
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 white onion, chopped
1 cup pitted green olives
½ cup water
¼ chopped Italian parsley
1. In a large bowl, combine all of your spices. Make sure your chicken pieces are dry and add them to the bowl, rubbing each well with the spice mixture. Let your chicken and spice mix sit for one hour in the refrigerator.
2. In a tagine dish or large skillet with heavy bottom, heat the olive oil to medium-high. Salt your chicken pieces lightly and place skin-side down in your pan and fry for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and onion pieces and turn your heat to medium-low, cooking for an additional 15 minutes.
3. Use tongs to turn your chicken pieces over, then add the olives, lemon rind and water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and then reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook for 30 minutes or until the chicken is tender and cooked through.
4. Top with fresh parsley and taste your tagine, adjusting the salt and pepper seasonings if necessary.
5. Serve with couscous, rice or flat bread.
Vegetarian Alternative: Skip the chicken and instead use pieces of vegetables to create your stew. Potatoes, carrots, squash, garbanzo beans, green peppers and tomatoes all work well.