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Friday, December 20, 2013

Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemons

Driving home from work today, I had a sudden desire for a dish using preserved lemons.  I've never experienced them before.  The more I thought about them, the more precisely the image of what they would be used for formed in my mind.
I started salivating.
During the last kilometer of my commute, I gave in and stopped to buy some.
I wanted tagine badly.  I've never made it and don't have the necessary cooking equipment, but I'm pretty sure I can do a good job without the actual clay tagine pot.  After tasting the potent sauce simmering as I write, I'm certain I've done an excellent job.
Serves 4
6 chicken thighs, skinned
3 tbsp EVOO
2 red onions, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp grated ginger
1/2 tsp saffron, soaked in warm water
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Juice from 1/2 lemon
2 preserved lemons, quartered
2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
3/4 cup water
3 tbsp pitted olives (which I didn't have, but its ok)
Few pinches salt
Some fresh cracked pepper
Chopped cilantro for garnish
1.  Heat some oil in a heavy based pan or tagine.  Cook the onions with a pinch of salt until translucent.
2.  Add the garlic, ginger, saffron with the water, cinnamon, and juice from the lemon.  Cook 1-2 minutes on high, stirring.  Pleasant aromas should be wafting.
3.  Add the preserved lemons, parsley, and a small handful chopped cilantro.  Stir well.
4.  Nestle the chicken pieces into the happy sauce you just made.  Sprinkle a bit of salt, some fresh pepper, add the olives (if using) and lower the heat.  Pour on the water and cook on low, covered, for about 1 hour, turning the pieces once during the process.

The chicken should be perfectly cooked with all the flavors of the happy sauce.  Serve topped with chopped cilantro over couscous or bulgur as I did here.
This was quite delicious, and as I mentioned, potent with preserved lemon flavor.  Next time I will remove the lemon quarters before eating, because they do tend to take over the whole dish when you pop a piece into your mouth.  When you take a "normal" bite, you can feel the deep flavors infused with cinnamon and saffron, which pair so nicely with the chicken and cilantro.
Cilantro is really the best herb ever invented.  Have I ever mentioned that before?
I can't say I'm a tagine expert, but I do trust my tastebuds and instincts and I think this is pretty close to the real deal… I'll have to consult some of my Moroccan homies to make sure.
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