I first heard of this traditional Moroccan dish while watching a Canadian cooking show called “From Spain with Love”. The host was exploring the Albaicin Arab Quarter of Granada – Spain, and she was tasting Moroccan recipes that had been a part of the culture of Granada for ages. Tagines are cooking pots used traditionally in North Africa and Middle Eastern cuisine. Handcrafted and made out of pottery, they have a cone shaped cover that is designed to let the condensation back into the cooking surface of the pot; allowing the meats to cook slowly in their own juices, and therefore producing undeniable tenderness along with amazing flavors. Food is usually served directly in the tagine.
I have a tagine. I have made this chicken tagine recipe many times, I have also tried beef, vegetable curries, and many other recipes in my tagine. The thing is that it is a delicate clayware that only allows very low temperatures. Depending on what I am cooking it takes up to a few hours, because I don’t always have a lot of time for cooking, I also make this recipe in a regular cooking pan or Dutch oven, adding chicken broth to recreate the juices that would normally form on the tagine, and reducing the cooking time from few hours to just under an hour.
Chicken Tagine happens to be one of my favorite recipes for entertaining, because it is unique and most likely your guests wouldn’t make it often, if ever; it also tastes incredibly good the next day which makes it easy to prepare the night before. I have made it for my sister every time she visits, so when I visited her in Madrid she told me there was a place she wanted to take me that I was going to love. She took me to La Cocina del Desierto, a small Moroccan restaurant in Chueca – Madrid. They served all sorts of tagines, I could’ve had anything; but being my first time eating at an authentic Moroccan restaurant, I had to try the chicken tagine I had been making at home for years. Oh my! I was delighted at the first bite, not to brag but…. it literally tasted as if I had made it myself!!! (well, yes I am bragging a little!) 🙂
Now that the preserved lemons have been waiting a few weeks in your dark pantry, get ready to give them good use with this Chicken Tagine recipe that is finger licking irresistible. Remember you can also buy your preserved lemons. Let’s get cooking!
2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 skinless, bone-in chicken thighs*
4 skinless, chicken legs*
1 large white onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 inches fresh ginger root, peeled and diced very small
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ginger powder
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder**
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups chicken broth (only for the cooking pan or Dutch oven method)
1 cup Kalamata olives, halved
1 preserved lemon, pulp removed, rind thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
Heavy bottom pan or Dutch oven method:
Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat, add the chicken thighs, brown 3 minutes on each side, remove to a plate, add chicken legs, brown 3 minutes on each side, set aside with the chicken thighs. Add remaining olive oil, add diced onion, cook stirring occasionally until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add ginger, garlic, and spices, stir. Add wine, stir with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom of the pan. Cook 1 minute, add chicken broth, return the chicken pieces to the pan, make sure they are covered in liquid, add some water if needed. Cover the pan, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, cook covered until the chicken is tender or reaches 165 F internal temperature, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the chicken to a serving plate, leave the liquid in the pot and turn up the heat. Add Kalamata olives and preserved lemon, cook on high until reduced and syrupy, 5 to 7 minutes. Taste for seasoning, and season to taste (remember that olives and preserved lemons are salty ingredients). Scoop the sauce on top of the chicken, serve immediately.
Season chicken with salt and pepper. Add olive oil in the tagine. Place chicken pieces in a single layer, add onions, garlic, ginger and spices on top, add wine, olives, and preserved lemon. Cover the tagine, place in a cold oven, turn the oven on and bring to a 300 F temperature. Cook until the chicken is tender or reach 165 F internal temperature, 2 to 3 hours. Avoid lifting the top during the cooking time. Rest about 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with parsley or cilantro. Serve with a side of couscous. Enjoy!
*I prefer bone-in chicken for more flavor, feel free to substitute with boneless chicken, dark meat works best for this recipe.
**Chinese Five Spice powder can be found at the grocery store. It’s a combination of cinnamon, cloves, star anise, pepper, and fennel seeds. The amounts of each spice is going to depend on the brand, some brands also have ginger in the mix. You can make your own mix or add just 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon if the other spices are not available in your pantry.