From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...I haven't shared many Moroccan recipes with you since we returned from our last adventure. While Moroccan food is delicious, our meals while in-country were repetitive, and in some cases, quite involved to make. Tagines were served daily, and while their contents varied, it was difficult to get precise recipes for them because they were usually eaten in the home of Moroccan families. Morocco is a fascinating country and it seemed foolish to spend undo amounts of time rummaging in kitchens, when there was so much else to learn. So, I surrendered to the limitations of the day, bought cookbooks when I could and mingled rather than mixed. I still haven't gotten to those cookbooks, so, today's recipe comes from Saveur magazine. As soon as I saw the recipe, I knew I had to give it a try. It is for an extremely simple chicken tagine that can be made without purchasing special ingredients that you'll never use again. The word tagine describes a dish and the vessel that it is made in. They are basically stews that can be made with small amounts of well-seasoned chicken, lamb or beef and extended with simple readily available vegetables. They are served with an assortment of small-plate dishes that are collectively called Moroccan salad. Tagine is usually served with couscous or bread, but only one of them will be served at the same meal. I've made a few changes to the Saveur recipe. I blanched the lemon slices to keep the sauce that forms as the tagine cooks from becoming bitter. I used six chicken thighs instead of the combination of legs and thighs suggested in the original recipe. I also used a tangine, the cooking vessel, to make my version of this tagine and baked it rather than let it simmer on a surface burner. It is nearly effortless to make and it truly is delicious. While this may be an acquired taste, I'm happy to report it had my socks going up and down. I do hope you'll give this recipe a try. Here is how the tagine is made.
Chicken and Onion Tagine - Djej Besla...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of Saveur magazine
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, crushed
1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
4 skinless bone-in chicken thighs
4 skinless bone-in chicken drumsticks
1 teaspoon crushed saffron threads
4 medium yellow onions, cut into 12 wedges each
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 lemon, thinly sliced crosswise, seeds removed, blanched
1-1/4 cups pitted green olives
⅓ cup finely chopped cilantro
Cooked white rice, for serving
1) Make a spice paste: Using flat side of a knife, chop and mash salt and garlic together on a cutting board into a smooth paste. Transfer paste to a large bowl and stir in cumin, paprika, and turmeric. Stir in 3 tablespoons oil, and then add chicken thighs and drumsticks. Toss until evenly coated. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, and marinate in the refrigerator for 4 hours to 24 hours.
2) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
3) Heat remaining oil in an 8-qt. Dutch oven or large tagine over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add chicken pieces, and cook, turning once, until golden brown on both sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Add saffron and onions to pot, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 15 minutes.
4) While chicken browns, bring 1 quart of water to a boil in a small saucepan.Add lemon slices and blanch for 3 minutes. Turn into a bowl of cold water to stop cooking. Drain. I have added this step to prevent bitterness in finished sauce.
5) Return chicken to pot along with lemon slices and 1 cup water, and bring to a boil. Stir ingredients to combine, cover cooking vessel, and cook until chicken is cooked through, about 40 to 50 minutes. Remove from oven, carefully uncover and scatter olives and cilantro over chicken and serve with couscous or rice. Yield: 4 to 6 servings.
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