Adapted from a The Guardian recipe
I have made a Moroccan chicken tajine before, but there is no set recipe for that title. This leaves open a wide variety of options in what to include in this dish. The last time I made this I heavily spiced the chicken, but in reading the discussion of The Guardian recipe, I learned that you may make it so that the chicken is the star attraction of this stew.
Note: I am impressed by The Guardians food writer—Felicity Cloake—ability to go into great detail of the “Whys” of various cooking decisions, instead of simply the “How To-s” of making a dish.
For years I have made my tajines in a Romertopf clay pot, which was the closest thing I had to a tajine. None of the tajines I found were big enough for me. The ones available—while beautifully decorated—were designed for serving only 2-4 people. I finally found a large one at Sur la table in Los Gatos.
Note: As you may see, the top of the lid has a very slick and slippery gripping knob at the top. The lid is also fairly hot—when being used—heavy and being made of porcelain or terracotta, they are very easily broken if dropped. Use a sure-grip oven mitten to remove it when you take it out of the oven.
I had originally planned to use preserved lemons in this dish, but none of the Middle Eastern markets in the area had them in stock while I was there. “They’ll be in next Thursday”—since there is only one brand locally, every store gets them at the same time.
On the other hand, as I was wandering through the store I saw that they had fresh garbanzo beans. Most Americans only know these beans in their dried form or ground into humus. Fresh they are more of a vegetable, rather than simply a starch. Fresh, they are usually sold in their papery husks—that requires some prep work to remove. I thought these would make a great addition to my chicken tajine.
Tip: You may also fry these beans in their shells as a fantastic hor d’oeuvre.
Karl’s Moroccan Chicken Tajine II
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 red onions, thinly sliced lengthways
¼ tsp. Kosher salt
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. fresh ginger, grated
1 tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. black pepper, cracked
½ cup chicken broth
2 Tbs. lemon juice
Large pinch saffron, in 2 Tbs. warm water
½ cup parsley, chopped, separate uses
¼ cup coriander, chopped
1 small chicken, cut into 8-10 portions
6 slices lemon peel
1. Heat the oil in a medium pan and sauté the onions with the salt until well browned, 7-10 minutes.
Tip: A tajine retains most of the liquid released by the ingredients as they are cooked. Onions release a lot, so it is best to sauté them first, so that the onion juice does not dilute the final sauce.
Note: Reducing the bulk of the raw onions is another issue. Most tajines are rather small and the bulky onions would leave no room for any other ingredients. While you could sauté the onions directly in the bottom of the tajine, you would be wise to use a heat diffuser to prevent damaging your clay pot.
2. Pull the onions to the sides of the pan and sauté the garlic until fragrant.
3. Sprinkle the cinnamon over the onions and stir in the grated ginger.
4. Stir in the chicken broth, lemon juice and saffron water.
Tip: Use a tea strainer to keep the strands of saffron out of your dish.
Note: Half a cup of broth may not seem like very much liquid, but between the moisture retention properties of the tajine and the juices that the chicken and vegetables will release there will be plenty of sauce.
5. Add half of the parsley and all of the coriander to the pan.
Note: Several of the recipes I looked at had you tying the parsley and cilantro into a bundle and then removing them after they are “spent.” Readers of my blog know how I feel about this kind of food waste. If it is edible, leave it in the pot.
6. Simmer the sauce for 2-3 minutes and remove it from the heat.
7. Transfer half of the onion mixture to the tajine.
8. Arrange the chicken pieces over the onions.
Note: For a dish like this I usually start with a whole chicken. I remove the back, breast bone, ribs, and wing tips with a knife or kitchen shears. These bits get frozen for later use in a chicken stock. I then separate the leg and thigh and I divide the breasts into to 2-3 portions each.
9. Lay the lemon peel slices over the chicken.
Tip: In preparing my lemon peel, I slice a strip about half an inch wide off of the lemon. I then turn it over and—laying it peel side down—I shave off any white pith on the inside.
10. Cover the tajine and place it in a cold oven.
Tip: If you have a heat diffuser, you may cook this dish on a stove top, but I like the greater temperature control of the oven.
Note: Do not put a cold tajine into directly into a hot oven, there is a risk that it might crack from the sudden heat.
11. Set the temperature to 350º F and cook the chicken, undisturbed, for one hour.
12. Remove the tajine from the oven and remove the lid.
13 . Scatter the artichoke caps, garbanzo beans and olives over the top of the stew.
Tip: You may use a turkey baster to baste the stew before adding the vegetables.
Note: Frozen artichoke caps vary widely in size. I cut the small ones into quarters and the larger ones into six pieces. It is not necessary to completely defrost them before adding them to the pot.
14. Return the tajine to the oven and cook for another 30-40 minutes.
Tip: (optional) Check the sauce level and thickness. If you feel that it is too much or too thin, transfer some of it to a small pot and reduce and thicken it with some corn starch. Pour the thickened sauce over the tajine before garnishing it.
15. Garnish with the remaining parsley and serve.