Last week was round 2 of the San Francisco cooking “club” with Jillian and Christina of Farm & a Frying, and Jess of Sodium Girl. You may remember my Pao Chow post introducing the evening’s theme of bold, spice-filled Moroccan cuisine (http://sftaoofpao.com/2010/03/23/moroccan-feast-with-foodie-friends/).
We parsed out the menu between the four of us. Jess produced a hearty vegetable couscous and savory lamb dish with matching cucumber yogurt topping (sodium-free of course). The girls of Farm and Frying Pan served up agave nectar sweetened Moroccan tea (Christina has cut out refined sugar from her diet of late) and homemade pita bread with Meyer lemon hummus.
For my offering, I opted to make a homemade chicken tagine. I found an amazing chicken tagine recipe in the Los Angeles Times a couple years back, when I called the City of Angels home. I kept that recipe for years; and after multiple uses, you can imagine how frayed its edges became, not to mention the multiple douses of Moroccan spices and sauces that adorned its face. A few apartment relocations later and I’ve unfortunately lost the recipe, but I remember most of it and have matched it up with a couple others to produce an updated 2010 version.
The key to any tagine is the abundance and availability of spices and lots of lemons. Ideally, you’d like to use preserved lemons for the strong lemony flavour that characterizes Moroccan food (you can make these easily by storing the lemons, juice and salt in a mason jar – check out Jillian’s recipe – http://www.farmandafryingpan.com/2010/03/preserved-lemons/). For our challenge though, salt was not an option so just make sure you have good quality citrus (I used Meyer lemons), quarter them, and add them to your tagine stew. If you are lucky enough to have a Moroccan tagine (round clay pot with a conical cover through which steam escapes, helping to slow cook the stew) use it! Otherwise any large pot should work for the recipe.
- two to four cloves of garlic, minced
- olive oil for pan-frying chicken and mixing marinade
- one whole chicken, parted out and make sure to leave the bones in – they add a lot of flavor, cut into serving sized pieces
- half teaspoon black pepper
- half teaspoon ground ginger
- pinch of saffron (fresh saffron is always best but remember not to overdose, saffron has a lot of flavour in just one of its red tendrils)
- one teaspoon cumin
- one teaspoon of cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoons turmeric (use this according to your taste, I like turmeric and it’s burst of bitter flavour so I sometimes add more)
- one stick of cinnamon or a few pinches of ground cinnamon (optional)
- half bunch of cilantro – finely chopped
- two white onions, diced
- two cups chicken broth or stock (or water)
- one cup green olives (we left these out given the salt content but normally I add them to a tagine)
- two preserved lemons, quartered
- salt, to taste
- 1 red bell pepper – diced
- 2 medium zucchini – diced (this is a good substitute for green olives if you are leaving them out for sodium reasons; zucchini provides a similar texture to the dish)
- Mix 2 cloves minced garlic, some black pepper, and a spoonful of oil. Rub the chicken with the mixture and set aside for a few hours or overnight.
- Mix spices (pepper, ginger, saffron, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, cayenne pepper) in a bowl.
- Heat the oil in a frying pan. Sprinkle half of spice blend over chicken to flavor. Fry the chicken until all sides begin to brown. Set chicken aside on a plate.
- Add olive oil to tagine or pot. Add onions and remaining minced garlic. Add rest of spice blend. Sautee over high heat for about 10 minutes.
- Add chicken and browned bits from frying pan to pot and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
- Add chicken broth, stock, or water. Add olives and preserved lemons. Bring to broil. Reduce heat. Cover, but leave a crack for steam to escape. Simmer over medium low heat for 15 minutes.
- Add red bell pepper and zucchini and simmer uncovered another 15 minutes until vegetables are tender.
- Use a ladle to serve chicken tagine (with all its juices) over couscous.
Note, the longer a tagine has to slow simmer, the more its spice-filled flavors will infuse into the dish. I had leftover chicken tagine the next day and it was even better because the spices had a chance to settle into the entire dish. Makes an excellent lunch to Pao Chow in the office!