It’s a no brainer. When you head to your local Moroccan joint, one of you is definitely is ordering the tagine. Right? To the untrained Maghrebian eye, there is drama in it’s very presentation that adds to its luring nature. The earthenware vessel boasting of nomadic silhouette and color whilst imparting a subtle earthiness – it takes you right there.
The tagine creates the perfect habitat for braising. The pot is heavy with a lid that prohibits even the remotest of vapor from escaping. However, most of us do not have tagines and it is possible to make it with a heavy-bottomed pan and a good weighty lid. Vegetable tagines might be widely popular, but making it with chicken and lamb is a whole different experience. As the chicken is lightly browned in a mixture of shallots, garlic and ginger powder, it then cooks at a gentle pace to allow those viscous qualities to be extracted. One of the essential ingredients in this dish is preserved lemon and in fact it solves that mysterious flavor in a lot of Moroccan dishes. The preserved lemon eases-up on it’s tartness over the aging process and it imparts a richer lemony flavor that adds aroma and depth to the dish. To bring the dish in to balance, a few pinches of hydrated raisins or chopped apricots will do the trick (I used figs but it adds a gritty texture).
Whilst I have certainly had various renditions of this dish, I am not a fan of the looser gravy. It creates that ’barely dipped tea bag’ flavor and the ingredients taste boiled rather than taste ‘braised’. But, if you keep excessive moisture at bay, you are left with a sauce that clings to the chicken. Since this is a one-pot dish, it completes the meal by adding a vegetable. Many use russets but potatoes greedily absorb the lemony herby gravy. Instead, throw in zucchini wedges half way through the cooking process. This dish is often enjoyed with a crusty loaf, but I am more of a rice person myself and they pair very well too.
4 tbsp. olive oil
½ tsp. hot paprika
½ tsp. cumin powder
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 tsp. ginger powder
2 vine ripe tomatoes, de-skinned (by blanching in hot water), quartered
1 tbsp. preserved lemon, finely chopped
1 heaped tbsp. chopped parsley
2 heaped tbsp. cilantro
4 chicken thighs and 2 chicken legs (skinless)
¼ cup of water
2 zucchinis, peeled and quartered
1 tbsp. raisins, soaked in water until plump and then drained
1) In a heavy bottomed pan, sauté onions until they become lightly golden and lose their crunch. Add the garlic and cook until soft
2) Season with salt, pepper, cumin powder, ginger powder and cayenne. Add the chicken and brown all over
3) Add the lemon and tomatoes and water Reduce heat and cook covered. After 20 minutes, add the zucchini and raisins and continue to cook covered until fully done
4) Remove lid and cook down until the sauce reduces to coat the back of a spoon. Garnish with parsley and cilantro