Tagine of Chicken with Lemons and Olives

Tagine of Chicken with Lemons and Olives

This is a simplified tagine, a one-pot dish with elegant, subtle flavors that are aromatic-spicy (as opposed to hot-spicy). Its most distinctive flavor notes are the saffron and the lovely hints of citrus that come from the preserved lemons. I took creative license by adding some wine to the recipe. The melding of flavors is indescribably delicious. The chicken is cooked in a heavy-bottom pot and presented at the table in a tagine. Glazed tagines have a high likelihood of lead content, so unless you’re sure that yours is lead-free cook in a safe pan and use the tagine for serving only. 

  • 2 whole chickens (about 4 pounds each), backs removed, each cut into 8 pieces
  • 2 breasts of chicken, bone in, halved
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon fresh saffron threads
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1 ½ cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup pitted green or purple olives (if hard, blanch in boiling water for 2 minutes, or until tender)
  • 2 preserved lemons, cut into ¼-inch dice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Season the whole chicken and breasts with the salt and pepper. Place the oil in a large ovenproof skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the chicken in batches (don’t crowd the pan) and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes each batch.

3. When all the chicken is browned, remove the excess fat from the skillet and return all of the chicken pieces to the skillet. Add the butter, cumin, ginger, paprika, saffron, lemon juice, garlic, white wine, and stock and bring to a boil. Cover the skillet, place in the oven, and bake for 30 minutes. Add the olives and lemons, basting and turning the chicken. Leave the skillet uncovered, and bake for an additional 10 minutes.

4. Transfer the contents of the skillet to the tagine, sprinkle with parsley and cilantro, and serve immediately. Open the top ceremoniously at the table… if you like.  

-Colin Cowie

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