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How I love a slow-cooked tagine of chicken with preserved lemons and olives. I have always loved the earthy flavors a tagine lends to anything cooked within its confines. For those unfamiliar, a tagine is a clay cooking vessel with a dome-shaped lid used in Morocco for hundreds of years. Nothing spells terroir better than a tagine and fresh local produce, in my opinion.
Even though, today, a tagine refers to any kind of Moroccan stew whether cooked in a tagine or not—and whether on a charcoal brazier or a stovetop—the authentic method, still religiously observed by villagers throughout Morocco, remains unsurpassed. Because of the time constraints of modern life, my mother, as well as most people I know, cook their tagine on a stovetop. The rustic method is nowadays a treat reserved for holidays and other special occasions.
Whenever possible, I make time for a tagine slowly cooked on a brazier. The preparation of a tagine is simple—all it takes is a little bit of planning ahead. I place all the ingredients together in my tagine at 2 or 3 o’clock in the afternoon and let the flavors slowly develop while that wonderful piece of art and history called a tagine permeates its unique flavor to the food over a small open flame for several hours. It’s ready just in time for dinner. I usually make it on a Sunday afternoon, when I’m enjoying the comforts of home and taking care of routinely things such as laundry, repainting my nails, straightening my hair, waxing, and the sort. You could do the same while watching football or doing some bricolage (DIY work) around the house. You will have something to look forward to. I know I will.
The next best utensil to use—if you don’t own a tagine—is a Dutch oven, followed by the mighty popular Crock-Pot. If you decide to buy a tagine; I would like to congratulate you on making one of the wisest culinary decisions of your life. Amazon has some great ones—Emile Henry’s is my number one pick.
Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemons and Olives Recipe
The cooking time for this recipe is based on cooking the chicken in a pot on the stove over medium heat. If using a tagine, cut your chicken into 4 to 6 pieces, lower the heat and cook for 3 to 4 hours.
4 to 6 servings
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
3 pinches saffron
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 whole large chicken (3 to 4 pounds), cut into 4 to 6 pieces
1 large sweet onion, diced
2 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 cup pitted green or red olives
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
1 preserved lemon without pulp, cut into strips
In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, saffron, turmeric, and ginger. Rub all sides of the chicken with the mixture. Pour the remaining mixture into a large pot, add the onions, and place the chicken on top. Simmer over medium heat, turning occasionally, 12 to 15 minutes. Add the water and cook, covered, 45 to 50 minutes, turning the chicken halfway through the cooking.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the chicken from the cooking pot and place it on a cookie sheet. Brush the chicken with melted butter and bake until golden brown, 8 to 12 minutes.
Continue cooking the sauce. Add the parsley, cilantro, olives, raisins, and preserved lemons and let cook until the sauce is reduced and thickened, 10 to 12 minutes.
Garnish the chicken with olives, preserved lemons, and sauce. Serve hot.