Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Moroccan Chicken Tajine

I absolutely love Moroccan Chicken. The colors are beautiful, the chicken is fall of the bone tender and the aroma wafting through the kitchen is amazing. The only thing I like more then the flavor is the ease of making the slow cooked dish. It's seriously a one dish dinner. You throw some chicken in a pot with a medley of spices and some fresh veggies. After about an hour of simmering... Ta-da! a delicious, nutritious dinner. For some bizarre reason I only cook it about once a year when I get inspired. Last year it was being in the middle east and living so close to the spice market in Jerusalem. Tonight it was my new gorgeous, green, 5- quart, cast-iron, dutch oven. I've been coveting one for about a year now so when I finally got one I needed something to make in it.

First, I should let you know that Moroccan Chicken isn't traditionally made in a dutch oven, but in a tajine. A tajine is a traditional Moroccan clay pot with a cone shaped lid. The domed lid ensures that any condensation built up while cooking will return to the pot. It is also a beautiful serving piece. I don't have a tajine, but that hasn't stopped my Moroccan chicken from coming out wonderfully every time. I believe that any heavy pot with a lid will do the trick just fine.Another great thing about Moroccan Chicken is that the dish is so versatile. Most tajines use a combination of spices like turmeric, cinnamon, paprika, cumin, garlic, and ginger. Switch up the spices a little and you have a whole new delicious tasting dish. Once you understand how the spices work together its easy to play. I love it. Tonight I made a classic lemon and green olive tajine. It was lemony, salty and lovely. My other favorite Moroccan chicken recipe uses tomatoes and apricots for a sweeter, richer flavor.

Traditionally this tajine is made with preserved lemons aka salt cured lemons. They are hard to find so people tend to make thier own. My mother made a huge reserve of them once when our Meyer lemon tree in the backyard was overflowing with fruit. I didn't have any on hand tonight so I substituted some extra lemon juice and salt. The missing preserved lemon resulted in a mellower lemon flavor. Here is my recipe for tonight's tajine:

1 cut up bone in skinless chicken
1 chopped eggplant
1 zucchini
1 sliced onion
4 cloves chopped garlic
2 tbsp turmeric
1 tsp cinnamon
salt and pepper
1-2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup good green olives
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 inch rough cut fresh ginger
Chopped cilantro and parsley for garnish

Heat the olive oil in your heavy pot. Saute garlic, ginger and onions for a couple of minutes, but don't let them burn. Place rinsed, salt and peppered chicken pieces into the pot. I prefer to remove the skin from the chicken in order to cut down on fat. If you like the skin, crisp up the chicken skin in the oil before adding the rest of the ingredients. You may need to do this in batches. Dissolve the turmeric and cinnamon in a half a cup of water and add to the pot. Add the lemon juice and enough water so that the chicken is half submerged. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Remember to turn the chicken every once in a while so it is all coated in the braising liquid. After the chicken has been simmering for about a half an hour I like to add the chopped eggplant and zucchini. If you add them to soon they disintegrate into the sauce. This is really not a problem, it just depends how you like your veggies. I've made it both ways. You can add the rinsed olives at this point or any point hereafter. All in all your meal should be cooking at least and hour. When your kitchen smells very aromatic and the chicken is nice, moist and falling of the bone you know your done. If your sauce is too watery you can always remove the chicken to reduce or add some corn starch. I never take this step because I want to eat. Season to taste with some salt, pepper, or extra lemon juice and garnish with the parsley and cilantro. Serve with some rice or couscous. I hope you like it as much as I do!

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