25 March 2011

Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemon and Olives

No one welcomes day light savings time more than me. The dark poorly lit pictures you see here, walking to and from work in the dark, it's time for them to be over. The lighting in our little kitchen is terrible, and in the winter the photos I can manage are less than inspiring. A breath of light and some Moroccan cooking are just what we need.


This is the most classic Moroccan dish I can think of- chicken with preserved lemons and green olives. It's cooked in a tagine with a bath of Moroccan spices, herbs, and onions. The chicken is slow cooked until it's tender and moist and a velvety lemon sauce is pureed until smooth. The preserved lemons are available in many stores, or you can make your own the classic way or the fast way.

Lemons and olives are a classic combination that you often find in Morocco and in Spain. Here, the lemon and olive aren't added until the end of cooking to preserve their bright flavor. The technique used here of grating an onion on a box grater is a very common one in the Middle East, and I rarely implement it in my recipes here. The truth is, it makes your eyes water like crazy and it's a big pain in the butt. But in recipes like this the slightly pureed slightly chunky texture of the onion makes for a perfect sauce. Don't skip the step of pureeing the sauce, it seems a bit fussy but it makes a big difference.

Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemon and Olives
To make a quick version of preserved lemons do the following: trim offf the rind of two lemons (use flesh for juice or simply discard). Dice the thick lemon rind. Bring 2 cups water to a boil with 1/3 cup salt. Boil diced lemon until they are just soft when pierced with a knife. Drain and set aside.

Go easy on the salt while cooking because the lemons and olives added at the end are quite salty. Serve this recipe with couscous or rice.

1 chicken, cut into pieces
4 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

olive oil
1 large onion, grated
1/4 teaspoon pulverized saffron
1/2 cup mixed cilantro and parsley, chopped
1/2 cup ripe green olives, pitted
2 preserved lemon, diced
2 fresh lemons

1. Bash 4 cloves of garlic with 2 teaspoons salt in a mortar and pestle. Add in the spices to form a paste. Rub over the chicken pieces and marinate, covered, overnight.
2. Heat some of the oil in the tagine. Add the chicken pieces (marinade and all) to the pot so that they start to turn golden on the outside, about 5 minutes. Add in 2 cups water, the grated onion, and saffron. Cover and simmer 45 minutes, turning chicken occaisionally. You may need to add water to the pan if it gets dry.
3. Add the diced herbs, preserved lemon, and olives. Simmer 10 minutes for the flavors to combine.
4. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken, olives, and preserved lemons to a platter.
5. Squeeze the juice of the two lemons into the sauce. Let the sauce boil for about 5 minutes until nice and thick. Using an immersion blender, puree the sauce until smooth. Pour the sauce over the platter of chicken and serve immediately.


Naij said...

Can I use kalamata olives in the tagine or is that deviating too much?!

Mercedes said...

Hi Naij, I've never made this using black olives, and while I don't think it would ruin the dish, the green olives have a more subtle earthy flavor, so if you can get your hand on some green olives I'd really recommend you do so. If you do try the black olives let me know how it turns out!

Naiz said...

I slightly adapted the recipe and skipped the olives....and it was FABULOUS. What an amazing use for my home-made preserved lemons. Thank you for the recipe :)

Figs, Bay, Wine said...

Oh I haven't made this in an age, and yours looks so good. The tip about the box grater is something I must remember, thank you again. Always learn so much over here : )