Our January trip to Morocco opened my eyes to a world of sights and smells I’d never experienced. And it introduced my palate to a fantastic way of cooking. I’d been passingly familiar with Moroccan cooking, mostly thanks to its French influence and recipes in Ina Garten’s Barefoot in Paris and Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table. I’d cooked with couscous plenty of times. And I knew that the word ‘tagine’ refers both to the method of cooking (in a terra cotta pot with a conical lid) and the dish prepared in it.
But the Marrakech cooking school experience at La Maison Arabe taught me how to prepare a truly Moroccan dish: chicken tagine with preserved lemon, olives and saffron. To my delight, the typed recipe, smudged with turmeric, that I brought home translates pretty well to my Cincinnati kitchen. And my Le Creuset cast-iron, lidded sauté pan was a reasonable substitute for the tagine.
So, from the Medina to my kitchen to yours …
chicken tagine with preserved lemon, olives and saffron
1 whole bone-in chicken breast, quartered (or use chicken thighs)
1/2 preserved lemon
1/2 red or white onion, diced
1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 level tsp. ground ginger
1 heaping tsp. turmeric
pinch of saffron
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup olives of your choice (I like black oil-cured olives)
Separate the preserved lemon flesh from the peel, remove seeds. Chop the pulp; sliver the peel into thin strips. In a heavy sauté pan, add the following: the lemon pulp, onion, parsley, garlic, pepper, ginger, turmeric, saffron and olive oil. Add chicken pieces and turn to coat. Put the pan over medium heat and cook for about 15 minutes, turning the chicken from time to time as it begins to brown. Add 1/3 cup of water; reduce heat and cover. Cook for 15 minutes more, stirring occasionally and adding a bit more liquid if needed. When the chicken is done and the sauce is thick, add reserved lemon peel and 1/2 cup of olives. Serve over couscous.