Tagines similar to this one are sold by road side restaurants throughout Morocco, but don't be fooled – they're quite easy to prepare stove top at home using a clay or ceramic tagine. Alternatively the chicken can be slow-cooked in the oven.
The photo shows the tagine prepared with a free range chicken (djaj beldi), which many Moroccans regard as the premium bird of choice for this and other Moroccan chicken dishes. Some even select roosters over hens, as the former have darker meat with fuller flavor. Free range poultry require a longer cooking time, so you may prefer to substitute organic or regular chicken.
Preserved lemon and chili peppers are optional ingredients.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours, 15 minutes
Yield: Serves 4.
- 1 whole chicken, cut into quarters
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup olive oil
- 2 medium onions, sliced
- 1 medium tomato, sliced
- 4 cloves of garlic, pressed or finely chopped
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon Ras el Hanout
- handful of green or red olives
- 1 or 2 chili peppers (optional)
- 1/2 preserved lemon, quartered (optional) or 2 thick slices of lemon
- 1/2 cup water
Pour the olive oil into the base of a tagine or casserole (or other oven-proof dish). Place half of the onion slices and the garlic across the bottom of a tagine. Arrange the chicken, skin side up, on top of the onions.
Mix the spices together in a small bowl and distribute the mixture over the chicken and onions. Layer the tomato slices, the remaining onion, the lemon and the chili peppers on top of the chicken and season the vegetables lightly with salt and pepper. Add the olives and water and cover the tagine or casserole.
Stove Top Tagine Method
Place the covered tagine on a diffuser over medium-low heat. Allow the tagine to heat slowly to a simmer, and then reduce the heat to the lowest temperature necessary to maintain the simmer. Cook the chicken without turning until very tender, about two hours for a regular chicken or three hours for a free range chicken. (When properly cooked, the meat should easily pinch off the bone.)
Towards the end of cooking, check to be sure there is enough liquid to prevent the onions from scorching. Add a bit more water if necessary, keeping in mind that there should be relatively little sauce in the finished tagine; the sauce comprises mostly onions and oils.
Serve the chicken directly from the tagine with Moroccan bread for scooping everything up.
Place the covered casserole in a cold oven and set the thermostat to 325° F (160° C). Leave the chicken to cook until very tender, about two hours for a regular chicken or three hours for a djaj beldi or free range hen. (The meat is done when it's tender enough to pinch off the bone.) If you like, you can remove the cover toward the end of cooking to lightly brown the skin.
If too much liquid remains in the casserole, transfer the sauce to a small pan and reduce until thick and mostly oils. Pour the sauce over the chicken before serving.