|Chicken cooked in a tagine with fresh lemons and olives.|
So near and yet so far. That sensation inspired me to get the Moroccan earthenware tagine off the high shelf and pull out a recipe from Paula Wolfert’s new book, THE FOOD OF MOROCCO (ECCO, 2012), for kefta tagine. Kefta are spiced meatballs cooked in the tagine with nothing more complicated than grated onion, spices and water, yet the flavors are extraordinary.
|Earthenware tagine from Morocco.|
I love the simplicity of layering ingredients—oil or butter in the bottom, then grated onions for flavor and substance. On top, the meatballs or, in my next experiment, chicken pieces. Spices, including saffron, water to partially cover. Covered with the lid and simmered, the food becomes ever so tender while it soaks up the spices.
|Spanish brine-cured olives.|
For lots of information about authentic Moroccan cooking, check out Paula Wolfert's Facebook page, Moroccan Cooking.
If you don't have an authentic tagine, use an ovenproof casserole with a tight-fitting lid and cook the tagine in the oven. To pit cracked olives, squeeze them and the pits pop out. Instead of carrots, other vegetables can be cooked with the chicken—pumpkin, fennel, artichokes. Taste the sauce when you turn the chicken pieces, if it seems too tart, add a spoonful of honey. Serve the tagine with bread, rice or cous cous.
|Chicken cooks with onion, spices and lemons.|
Tagine of Chicken with Fresh Lemons and Olives
|Chicken and spices ready to cook.|
½ teaspoon saffron, crushed in a mortar
½ cup boiling water
2 ¾ pounds chicken legs and thighs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, grated or finely chopped in a food processor
1 medium lemon, halved and sliced
1 teaspoon pimentón (sweet paprika)
½ teaspoon powdered ginger
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon coriander seeds
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
2 cloves garlic, slivered
2 carrots, sliced
3 small onions, halved
½ cup water
½ cup pitted brine-cured olives
Parsley or cilantro leaves to garnish
Put the saffron in a heat-proof bowl and add the boiling water. Allow to infuse for 30 minutes.
Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper and allow to come to room temperature.
Place the oil in the bottom of a tagine. Spread the grated onion on top. Arrange the lemon slices over the onions. Place the chicken pieces in the tagine. Sprinkle with the pimentón, ginger, cumin, coriander, pepper, parsley and garlic. Tuck the carrots and onions between chicken pieces. Pour over the saffron water and remaining water.
Bring to a boil, cover the tagine and reduce heat so the liquid just simmers. Cook 30 minutes. Turn the chicken pieces, cover and cook until chicken is very tender, about 30 minutes longer. Remove lid, add the olives and cook, uncovered, 10 to 15 minutes more.
Allow to set, covered, 10 minutes. If desired, skim off excess fat from the surface. Garnish with parsley or cilantro.