Taste of Morocco: Chicken Tagine
Updated: Sep 6, 2021
This amazing, stew-like dish is bursting with flavor combinations that will seem strange on reading, but merge together brilliantly. Tagine dishes originate in northwestern Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya) and are named after the clay pot that they are cooked in. A tagine cooking pot is essentially a traditional slow cooker. Ingredients are piled into it and left over hot coals to stew.
Tagines can be centered around nearly any meat (though not pork as it is not consumed in that part of the world), and they can even be vegetarian. Tagine stew flavors are savory, earthy, bright and complex, but seldom spicy. One of the most surprising thing about these "exotic" dishes is how quick and easy they are to make. There is no fussy prep work, and the ingredients barely need to be chopped. One warning about this dish: it smells really different than it tastes. The smell is a little weird (at least to our American noses), but the taste is divine.
Even if you don't have a traditional tagine pot, you can make this recipe on the stove in a Dutch oven or even a large soup pot (that's what I do, cause, yeah, I'm not cool enough to have a real tagine pot). This dish is gluten free, dairy free, paleo and potentially keto friendly.
Here is how I make chicken tagine:
1/4 cup oil of choice (olive oil would be most traditional)
1 lb chicken thighs (or breast cut into large pieces)
1 onion, cut into 6 wedges
1 big handful of fresh cilantro (roughly chopped)
1 big handful of fresh parsley (roughly chopped)
1 inch of fresh ginger (lightly minced)
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp saffron threads
1 big handful of green, black or red olives (the large, milder flavored ones, pitted. You can leave whole or cut in half)
1 preserved lemon (if you don't have this, you can use slices of fresh lemon)
1 tsp salt (do NOT add salt if using preserved lemons)
Pile the following ingredients (in roughly this order) into a tagine pot, Dutch oven or heavy bottomed soup pot:
1/2 the onions
salt (if not using preserved lemons)
other 1/2 of the onions
cilantro, parsley, ginger, lemon slices, olives (saving small amount of lemons, olives, parsley and cilantro for garnish)
pepper, turmeric, 1/2 the saffron
Cover the pot and cook on medium heat, stirring every 10-15 min (to keep bottom from burning), for approximately 1 hour.
Keep the heat adjusted so that the chicken doesn't scorch. Try not to add water (but do if you need to keep things from burning to the bottom)
It is done when the onion has completely dissolved into a thick sauce and the chicken is falling off the bones.
When chicken is cooked, if there is a lot of liquid, transfer solids to a plate, and cook down the liquid to a thick gravy/ sauce.
Garnish with lemon, olive, parsley, cilantro and saffron
Traditionally this is served with couscous. Since I am gluten free, I replace this with quinoa.
I add a Moroccan flair by cooking it in broth and adding cinnamon, raisins and sliced almonds.
I also often serve this with beet salad, almond milk flavored with rose water (or Tiger Nut horchata), and finish the meal with marzipan stuffed dates.
How to make Preserved Lemons:
6-10 organic lemons (Meyer lemons if you can get them)
1-2 cups sea salt
Sterilized, large mouth canning jar
Cut the tips off of all the lemons.
Cut 1/4 inch off one end of each lemon.
Partially cut the lemons into lengthwise quarters, leaving about 1/4 uncut to hold them together at the ends.
Put 1.5 Tbs salt into bottom of jar
Open the cut lemons and generously salt the insides.
Pack the lemons into the canning jar, using more salt to fill the space, squishing the lemons enough to release some juice.
Leave on counter for 3 days, turning several times to mix.
Store in the fridge for up to 6 months.
When using - rinse salt off lemon before adding it to recipe.