What the heck is a tagine?

Today was the perfect day to hide out from the bitter cold in my small Boston kitchen and pull out my brand new tagine. Right about now you might be finding yourself asking, "what the heck is a tagine"? I'll be honest, I found myself asking a similar thought as I opened up this odd shaped dish on Christmas morning. I had seen them before and knew it was of Moroccan origin but that was about it. Needless to say, I couldn't wait to read up on and play around with this new toy.

A tagine, pictured to the right, is a traditional Moroccan pan of sorts that was traditionally made from clay. It has a shallow, but heavy bottom pan and then it has a removable cone shaped lid. It is used to cook meats and vegetables slowly and over low heat. The cone shaped top is meant to allow steam to rise, trap it and then let this beautifully flavored condensation slide back down into the meat, accentuating the flavors. Pulling from Greek inspirations, I created an oregano and a chili marinade for the chicken and then placed it on top of a bed of fresh sliced lemons, whole garlic cloves, some leftover champagne from New Years Eve, and a bay leaf. I then placed the lid on top, set my burner to a low setting, and let it go. This by far was the hardest part for me. As patience is not my virtue (especially in the kitchen) I had to distract myself so that I wouldn't open the lid (opening the lid causes the ever-important steam to escape, defeating the purpose of using this method of cooking). However, when I finally decided that it was time to take a peek, (a good three hours later!) what I was left with was this deliciously moist chicken with such an intense flavor and a sweet lemony-champagne broth. Starting with some baby spinach leaves, I placed the chicken on top and drizzled some of the lemon-champagne broth over. This slightly wilted the spinach and created a mass of earthy goodness. Paired with a simple, but absolutely addictive Israeli couscous salad with cranberries and pistachios, this meal ensured many, many future creations by way of the tagine.

Below is my recipe. Although it was fun cooking with the tagine, if you don't have one on hand, you could get great results from slowly baking the chicken. Just be sure to brown the outside of the chicken first, then bake it slowly in a tightly covered dish.

For the chicken marinade:
~ 2 tbs dried oregano
~ Chili powder to taste (depending on how hot you like it or you can omit this altogether)
~ 1/2 tsp cumin
~ drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
~ Couple pinches of salt and black pepper
~ A couple splashes of white wine or champagne

For the broth:
- Enough lemon slices to cover the pan (reserve at least one slice for the couscous)
~ 1 c. white wine or champagne
- 4 whole garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 whole dried bay leaf

*For this dish, I used four small, thinly sliced chicken breasts. Adjust the recipe according to the size and amount of chicken.

Mix all of the ingredients for the rub together in a medium-sized bowl. The marinade should be a little watery, but still have a thick consistency to it. Add the chicken to the marinade and coat it completely, set aside and let it sit for at least 30 minutes. After the chicken has marinated for some time, pat it dry. Heat some olive oil in the pan and quickly brown the chicken. Do not heat it through. Pull the chicken from the heat and set aside. Meanwhile, lay the lemon slices on the bottom of the pan. Pour in the wine or champagne. Add the garlic cloves and lay the chicken on top of the bed of lemons. Pour the remaining marinade on top of the chicken and top with the bay leaf. Cover the chicken and let it slowly bake for 3-4 hours, depending on the size and quantity of chicken. Serve on top of fresh spinach and drizzle lemon broth over the dish.

Cranberry Pistachio Couscous Salad
- 1 1/3 c. Israeli couscous (can be found in most grocery stores. Regular couscous, orzo pasta or wild rice would also work well)
- 1 3/4 c. chicken stock
~ 1/4 c. toasted pistachios
~ 1/4 c. dried cranberries
- large handful of roughly chopped scallions
- 1 lemon slice
- salt and pepper to taste
~ 1 tbs. extra virgin olive oil

In a small saucepan, bring chicken stock and lemon slice to a boil. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat the couscous in olive oil until it starts to turn light brown. Discard of the lemon and add the boiling stock to the couscous. Cover tightly and reduce heat to low. Let the couscous cook for 10-12 minutes until it is fluffy. Add the cranberries, pistachios, and green onions. Gently stir to combine. Season to taste. Serve alongside the chicken and spinach.


Anonymous said...

This dish has really inspired me to venture out from my norm of baked chicken (blah). Although I am not sure if I am a fan of cous-cous I would definitely be willing to give it a try. You make everything seem so easy - Thanks!!

SAS said...

I wonder how quinoa would be in place of the couscous, for those of us eating gluten free out there...

Katie said...

Quinoa would definitely work for those gluten free folks out there, also great for those who want to just try something new!

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