Chicken tagine with olives and preserved lemons

Regular followers have probably noticed that I don’t cook much meat or poultry. In part, this is due to cost and environmental reasons.

But it’s also due to taste. I cook for leftovers, because I, like many of us, am too busy to cook multiple nights each week. And I often find meat leftovers…uninspiring. How do you reheat them without them drying out? (Does everyone know something about this that I don’t?) Plus, soups, grain salads, vegetarian stews, and so on all get better after a night in the fridge, rather than worse.

For me, the one exception to this rule is any meat or poultry that can be reheated in a sauce. The sauce helps keep the meat moist while it reheats.

That’s where this recipe comes in. Chicken thighs–even sustainable/organic ones–are relatively inexpensive. Their meat is much more flavorful than chicken breasts (especially the omnipresent boneless-skinless variety whose popularity continue to mystify me). And, cooked in a sauce, the dish reheats well on the stovetop or in the microwave.

Marinade the chicken in spices for a few hours. Then cook, tossing in some pungent olives, plenty of onion, and that some of that preserved lemon that has been taking up room on your refrigerator door. While the chicken is cooking, boil some water to make a bowl of couscous that will absorb some of the fragrant sauce. (Or, if you want something a bit more celebratory, try this Israeli couscous.) And I love a grated carrot salad, done up with toasted cumin and cilantro, as a fresh, crunchy contrast to serve on the side.

Chicken tagine with olives and preserved lemons (serves 4-5)
Adjusted only for cut of chicken from Florence Fabricant on the New York Times

Ingredients
5 cloves garlic, sliced or minced
¼ teaspoon saffron threads
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 3/4 pounds bone-in chicken parts (I did a mix of legs and thighs, which came out to three full legs plus three thighs), skin on or off, as you wish (though the covered cooking does not yield crisp skin, so even if you are a skin fiend as I am, you won’t miss it if you go skinless)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 medium onions, sliced thin
1 cinnamon stick
16-20 good-quality olives, black or green or a mix, pitted and halved
1 large or 3 small preserved lemons(sold in specialty food shops)
1 cup chicken stock
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley

Instructions
Mix garlic, saffron, ginger, paprika, cumin, turmeric, and salt together.  Add pepper to taste. Rub chicken with mixture, cover, refrigerate and marinate 3 to 4 hours.

Heat oil in a heavy skillet that has a lid (you will cover the dish as it cooks later). Add chicken, and brown on all sides. Remove to platter. Add onions to skillet, and cook over medium-low heat about 15 minutes, until lightly browned. Transfer to tagine, if you are using one, or leave in skillet. Add cinnamon stick.

Put chicken on onions. Scatter with olives. Quarter the lemons, remove pulp (easily done with a paring knife) and cut skin in strips. Scatter over chicken. Pour stock over chicken.

Cover tagine or skillet. Place over low heat, and cook about 30 minutes, until chicken is done. Squeeze lemon juice over dish, scatter parsley on top, and serve.

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