Moroccan Chicken Tagine is a cool weather recipe which warms the heart and fills the kitchen with deep aromas of exotic spice and nostalgic memories of a time when creating a dish took an entire afternoon, each step an art form unto itself.
While this recipe won’t take an entire afternoon, it does require a deep love of food and appreciation of ingredients. Food is consumed by all of your five senses. Taste is food and water. Nose is air. Ear is sound. Touch is sunlight. Vision is nature. Pulling all of these five senses into your cooking fully nourishes your body.
Ayurveda has three main focuses: healing, prevention, and health care. As you look through the ingredients in the Moroccan Chicken Tagine recipe, you’ll recognize many of the herbs and spices are common ones in holistic healing. This is no coincidence! The spices make up a melody which will take you into the world of Ayurvedic cooking. Ayurvedic, the sister word to yoga, refers to the science of life.
Taking Herbs and Spices to the Next Level
If you’re like me and just about everyone else you know, your cabinet is full of ground herbs and spices. Many of them are most likely a year old. The problem with this is you are cooking with very old and very stale ingredients. You might even be using more salt than necessary due to the bland taste of your herbs. I’ve been there – I know.
There are so many herbs and spices which are easy to buy as needed in the bulk section of the grocery store. The difference you’ll experience in grinding your own herbs and spices in incredible. I use this mortar and pestle, which feels great in the hands and doesn’t send seeds flying…too much.
For this entire dish, I tried to use as many fresh herbs and spices as possible. From turmeric root to ginger, coriander, allspice, and cardamom. The smells wafting up as you grind your own food evoke a powerful sense of accomplishment and satisfaction from your cooking.
Protip: For grating things like ginger or turmeric, use a grater like this. It is simple, easy to clean, and works so much better than anything else I’ve tried.
Cooking with a Tagine
Tagine refers to both instrument and method of cooking. The tagine instrument is a cooking vessel traditionally made of clay. These are the slow cookers of ancient times. When buying a tagine, it is important to pay attention how it is made. Some are made for electric stoves, some are made with cast iron, and some are stone with enamel. I used a lead-free glazed ceramic tagine, which is made for either a flame stovetop or oven. This particular one would probably be fine in the traditional way of cooking, which would place it on large coals, although the exterior painting would take a beating.
The unique shape of the tagine lid allows moisture to rise to the top then slowly drip back down the sides to keep the meats and vegetables moist. This is where the tagine excels far beyond many other cooking equipment. The tagine will keep your food from drying out better than anything else. When tempted to add liquids, you’ll want to add thick sauces and olive oil. Water is not the way to go.
Tagines utilize a lower temperature, and as such your meals will take longer to make. Consider the time a happy medium between your slow cooker meals and using the oven directly. You can also use your tagine to serve the meal in when it is done cooking for a beautiful earthen presentation.
A standard tagine will hold enough to feed 4 to 6 people at a time.
This particular recipe was inspired by Daniel Boulud’s Chicken Tagine. Some key changes made were the inclusion of fresh herbs and spices and reduction of salt, as noted in the methods of cooking above.
While heavily influenced by North African cooking, there is a French influence, in that blanched cauliflower and tomatoes are included in the dish. Heirloom tomatoes are preferred to Roma, but as this is a hearty fall and winter dish, Roma tomatoes are much more readily available.
I refer to myself as a foodie, and this dish exemplifies the claim. One must have a true love and appreciation of food to take the time to prepare so many ingredients separately then slowly cook them together.
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