And a tagine is also the name of the dish, too. It’s really any kind of baked meat stew – primarily chicken, lamb or beef – sometimes goat – cooked with Moroccan seasonings and sometimes dried fruits like prunes or figs and sometimes olives and hopefully, if you’re me – preserved lemons!
I didn’t buy a tagine in Morocco because it broke my rule of two, and that is: I will happily buy anything that meets two of these three features: a) heavy; b) breakable; c) bulky/odd shaped. But this one broke the rule – it was heavy, breakable and bulky. Plus which, you can buy them at Macy’s or wherever. And also, guess what? You don’t even need a tagine! You can use any kind of clay baking dish such as this one, that I have:
And you can’t believe how easy it all comes together. Here’s all you do:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 preserved lemons (please see earlier post - it takes a month for these to cure in the fridgeroo)
juice of one fresh lemon
2 white or yellow onions, chopped
2 Tbl parsley (curly or flat; either works), chopped
1 heaping tsp salt
1 heaping tsp fresh ground pepper
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
2 pinches of saffron (you can use turmeric if you don’t have saffron)
3 Tbl olive oil
What You Do
1) Soak your clay dish for a couple hours in cold water (the lid nests in the bottom; I just fill as much water as I can in bottom and lid and leave on the counter for a while) and then dry it well. NOTE: do not preheat the oven — these pots have to go into a cold oven or else they can (and will) crack.
2) Put olive oil in bottom of pot and toss in the chicken breasts.
3) On top of the chicken throw in: minced garlic, chopped onion, salt, pepper, ginger, cumin and saffron (or turmeric). I do not even mix it up – I literally just dump the stuff in – it all somehow gets mixed up in the oven, like magic! Add the parsley, juice of one lemon and preserved lemons, too.
NOTE ON THE PRESERVED LEMONS: after you fish out two preserved lemons from your jar, get a grapefruit spoon, if you have one (a regular spoon if not) and scoop out and chuck all the lemon pulp inside, leaving you with just the peels. Then run some cold water over the peels to rinse off the salt they’ve been sleeping in, and then chop them into whatever size pieces you like (maybe 1/2-inch pieces). Your dish will look like this:
4) And now you put the hat on the pot and put it into your cold oven. Fire it up to 450 degrees, Fahrenheit and cook for one hour. NOTE: Half an hour in, remove the pot, take the lid off and add 1/2 C or more of water. The water will give you more sauce, so I add at least 1/2 C, sometimes 3/4 C. Put the hat back on, and back into the oven.
5) Remove the pot after 1 hour and place on a stack of dish towels on your counter (so you’re not plopping it onto a cold, granite counter, for instance, where it could break from the temperature change) and test doneness of chicken with a digital meat thermometer – it should be at least 150 degrees F. Leave it to rest, covered for about 15 minutes, and it’ll keep cooking a bit, bringing the chicken up to 160 degrees for perfect doneness!
And that’s it! Serve the chicken and spoon sauce over each serving, making sure everyone gets some of the DELISH preserved lemon. If you’ve never had it, you will be amazed by the sweet, tangy, intense lemon-ness you get. It is crazy good!
I serve this alongside some simple cous cous that I cook in water infused with a saffron bouillon cube (procured in a grocery store in Casablanca … use chicken stock or bouillon if you don’t have saffron bouillon). And while your tagine is cooking, you can also slide in an aluminum tray of cut-up carrots and zucchini to roast for about 30 minutes, to serve alongside, for the perfect Moroccan feast. A nice dry white, like a Spanish Albarino, complements this nicely.
Left-overs keep great in the fridge for a few days, too.
This dish is an especial favorite of mine in winter, as the light, lemony flavor is most welcome on a frosty Chicago winter night. Hope you enjoy as much as I do!