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Moroccan Chicken Tagine with Cardoons

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Moroccan Chicken Tagine with Cardoons

Chicken and Cardoon Tagine

Photo © Christine Benlafquih

This classic Moroccan tagine features chicken and cardoons, a large stalk vegetable which is known as khorchouf in Morocco. Although you might find cardoons a bit tedious to pare and clean, the end result will be worth the trouble, as they're quite delicious when stewed with Moroccan spices, preserved lemon and olives.

Cardoons require a long cooking time to reach the buttery-tender state preferred by most Moroccans. When preparing a Beef or Lamb Tagine with Cardoons, it's easy to work around this by using a pressure cooker to cook the meat and cardoons simultaneously. For this dish, however, since chicken requires less stewing time, it's best to pre-cook the cardoons before adding them to the pot or tagine. This will also remove bitterness.

If you've never worked with cardoons, see How to Clean Cardoons to pare and trim the stalks before cooking. This step can be done several days in advance.

Please note that despite the visual similarity of cardoons to large stalks of celery, the two vegetables are not interchangeable as their flavors are quite different.

Whether or not to skin the chicken is a matter of personal preference. Reduce the cooking time by half if using a conventional pot rather than a clay or ceramic tagine.

Prep Time: 40 minutes

Cook Time: 2 hours

Pre-cooking cardoons: 1 hour

Total Time: 3 hours, 40 minutes

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 or 2 large bunches of cardoons
  • 3 or 4 large fresh lemons
  • 2 tablespoons white flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • -----------------------------------
  • 1 whole chicken, cut in half or in quarters
  • 1 large onion, chopped medium
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or pressed
  • 1 tomato, grated
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
  • 3/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon turmeric (or 1/8 teaspoon Moroccan colorant)
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 preserved lemon, cut into quarters
  • handful of red olives, rinsed

Preparation:

Pre-Cook the Cardoons

Juice the lemons. Reserve a few tablespoons, and add the remaining lemon juice to a large bowl to prevent oxidation of the cardoons as you prep them. Pare and trim the cardoon stalks, and cut them into 3" to 4" pieces. As you work, add the cleaned pieces of stalk to the bowl, turning them to coat them with lemon juice.

In a large pot, whisk together the reserved lemon juice, flour, salt and pepper. Gradually blend in 2 quarts (2 liters) of water and bring it to a boil. Rinse the cardoons and add them to the pot. Rapidly simmer the cardoons for 30 to 60 minutes, until the stalks are fork tender. Drain and proceed with the tagine preparation.

Prepare the Tagine

Mix the chicken, onion, grated tomato, garlic, spices, herbs and olive oil together. Transfer everything to either a large, heavy-bottomed pot or large clay or ceramic tagine.

If using a pot: Cover and cook the chicken over medium heat (don't add water yet) for about 30 minutes. Stir and turn the chicken occasionally. Add the cardoons, olives and preserved lemon, and enough water to just cover the cardoons. Bring the liquids to a simmer and continue cooking, covered, for another 15 to 30 minutes, until the chicken is tender. Uncover the pot and reduce the liquids to a thick sauce. Adjust seasoning (it should be a bit salty, peppery and tangy) and serve.

If using a tagine: Arrange the cardoons under and around the chicken, which should be placed meat-side down in the center of the tagine. Add the olives, preserved lemon wedges and 3/4 to 1 cup of water. Cover the tagine, place it on a diffuser over medium-low heat and allow it to slowly reach a simmer. Continue simmering the tagine for for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, turning the chicken meat-side-up halfway through cooking, until the meat is tender enough to pull off the bone. If necessary, continue cooking the tagine, uncovered, to reduce the sauce before serving.

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