Saturday, February 11, 2012

Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemons--A Bit of Moroccan Flavor

There are three dishes that are most often made with preserved lemons: chicken, fish, and lamb. Lamb and chicken are usually made tagine style, that is slowly cooked in a special dish with a shallow bottom and a conical cover. So far I have tried chicken and have been making it from time to time. It is the most classical dish coming from the Moroccan cuisine tradition.

Before I made for the first time, I had been looking everywhere for a most complex and interesting recipe. All of them called for the same ingredients--chicken, preserved lemons, olives and spices. But when I read different reviews not everyone who tried this dish liked it. Most complaints concerned the sourness of it that overshadowed its other subtle tastes, particularly, when the dish was made with green olives, which seems to be the most popular recipe. And it seems that even the mildness of couscous that the chicken is served with did not help diminish its acidity. Many people who tried out this dish would never make it again.

I decided then to make this dish a bit differently. I added carrot and raisins, which I thought would help offset its sourness. Both ingredients are often used in the Moroccan cuisine and also sometimes in different type of tagine dishes. A typical tagine calls for a meat with bones, which gives out its flavor through long cooking, but I used chicken breast tenderloins. To make sure I get a maximum flavor from it I made sure the chicken was organic and free range. I cooked them much faster in a regular heavy bottom cookware, but I think the taste was similar to what it would be if I did it as a slowly cooked dish.

Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemons
(Serves four)

4 chicken breasts with bones or 8-10 breast tenderloins,
1 red onion,
6 carrots, peeled and sliced,
1/2 cup raisins,
2 preserved lemons,
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp turmeric,
4 anise star fruits,
1/2 tsp ground ginger,
2 inch long stick of cinnamon,
1/2 cumin,
1 tsp paprika,
pinch of saffron powder,
1/4 tsp black pepper,
1/2 tsp salt,
chopped fresh coriander and parsley,
olive oil for frying.

1. Mix 3 tbsp of olive oil with garlic, salt, and pepper. Rub the chicken in it and let marinate for about an hour.
2. Preheat a frying pan and fry chicken breasts until gold. Add sliced onion and carrot, and fry for about two minutes stirring from time to time. Add to the pan all the spices: turmeric, paprika, ginger, saffron, cumin. Let the chicken parts coat in spices.
4. Cut preserved lemons alongside into thin slices. Add to the pan with chicken.

5. Let it cook covered for about 40 minutes (about 30 will do if you use tenderloins) until the meat is tender.
6. Add chopped parsley and cilantro on top of the dish.
Serve with couscous and salads.

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