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.
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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.
Moroccan Chicken Tagine
- 3 1/2 Tablespoons Smoked sweet paprika
- 1 Teaspoon Garlic powder
- 2 Teaspoons Cinnamon Grind several cinnamon sticks for fresh cinnamon
- 3 Tablespoons Coriander Grind 3 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
- 1 1/3 Tablespoons Turmeric Grate fresh turmeric root
- 1 Tablespoon Ginger Grate fresh ginger root
- 1/2 Tablespoon Cardamom Grate 1/2 tablespoon of whole cardamom seeds, removed from pods
- 2 1/2 Teaspoons Allspice Grind 2 1/2 allspice berries
- Unused chicken parts Back, neck, gizzards, etc
- 5 Cups Water
- 1 Bay Leaf
- 1 Teaspoon Garlic powder
- 1 Pinch Salt
- 1 Pinch Pepper
- 1/2 Carrot Chopped
- 1/2 Celery Chopped
- 1/3 Yellow onion Diced
- 1 Whole chicken Extra parts removed for stock
- 4 Tablespoons Spice Mix
- 1/3 Cup olive oil
- 3 Roma tomatoes
- 1 Cauliflower Cut into bite-size florets
- 1 White Onion Diced
- 3 Cloves garlic Finely diced
- 1 Tablespoon Ginger Freshly grated
- 4 Saffron Select large threads
- 1 Tablespoon Tomato paste
- 2 Cups Chicken Stock
- 2 Preserved lemons Roughly chopped and seeds removed
- 1 Cup Green Olives Castelvetranos are preferred
- 1/2 Bunch Cilantro Pick leaves and discard stems
- 2 Tablespoons Pomegranate Seeds
- Use a mortar and pestle to finely grind all whole spices.
- Combine the spices in a dry saute pan over low heat. Toast gently, stirring with a wood spoon until the spices release their fragrances.
- Transfer spice mix to a bowl to cool. You will have made more than you need for the Chicken Tagine.
- Place unused chicken parts into a medium sized pot.
- Cover with water and add in the rest of the ingredients.
- Simmer for 2 hours.
- Strain broth into large measuring cup or fat separator and let cool.
- Skim fat from top of broth.
- Broth can be used immediately or frozen for future use.
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Separate chicken thighs, legs, breast and place into large pot with 2 tablespoons olive oil. With heat on medium, brown chicken, starting with skin-side down. After chicken is browned on both sides, place browned chicken in in the bottom of your tagine.
- Bring large pot of salted water over high heat. Place pot of ice water to the side. Boil cauliflower florets for 1 minute then submerge in ice water. Remove after 1 minute then pat dry.
- Core tomatoes. Place your tomato on a cutting board, stem side facing up. Roll the tomato sideways so the stem faces to the right, and cut the tomato down the center "equator" line into two halves. Use a small spoon to scoop the tomato seeds and any tough white core out of the four seed cavities. Boil tomatoes for 20 seconds then submerge in ice water for 20 seconds. Peel skin.
- Remove all but two tablespoons of olive oil and fat from the pot you used for the chicken and return to heat. Put cauliflower into pot brown the cauliflower as well. Add cauliflower to tagine.
- Coat chicken and cauliflower with 4 tablespoons of spice mix.
- Reduce heat in pan and add onion, garlic, ginger, and saffron. Stir about 5 minutes or until onions are translucent.
- Add tomato paste and chicken stock. Simmer until reduced by 1/3.
- Pour sauce over chicken and cauliflower. Cover tagine and transfer to oven for 20 minutes.
- Remove tagine to stir in tomatoes, preserved lemon, and olives. Cook for additional 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
- Garnish with cilantro and pomegranate seeds.
- Serve alongside your favorite type of rice or couscous.
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