Since the 19th century when France colonized Morocco and Algeria, French food culture has experienced an infusion of North African flavors and techniques. Paris is somewhat of a hotspot of Moroccan cuisine and is where we first experienced the exotic flavors of Moroccan cooking. One of our favorite restaurants, Le404, is located in the 3rd arronidisement and is widely known as one of the best restaurants in Paris, and is quite well known for their traditionally prepared chicken tajine.
Tajine (also correctly spelled tagine), refers to both a Moroccan cooking vessel and the style of cooking, as well as to a popular dish which could be compared to a stew. However, unlike a simple stew, tajine features an exotic combination of Moroccan spices, preserved lemons, and olives! I like to think of myself as quite adventurous when it comes to food and cooking, but this is something I’d never imagined making at home until my friends at Revol asked me to try out their new ceramic tajine.
The cooking pot known as a tajine can be found in every Moroccan household. It is a shallow clay dish with a cone shaped lid that helps steam to condense and return to the food rather than escaping from the pot. Traditionally used over hot coals or in communal ovens, fired clay tajines can be hard to use in a modern kitchen, but Revol of France has brought the tajine into the 21st century with a beautiful design made of high-performance, nonporous ceramic, it can go from freezer to microwave to oven to stovetop to table without missing a beat! Not only can it be used on gas and electric stovetops, which makes it perfect for summer cooking when you don’t want to use your oven, but it works equally well on induction cooktops like the one I have in my studio! If for some strange reason you end up with leftovers, you can even put in in the freezer!
The dish known as tajine is a staple of Moroccan cuisine, which typically features goat, lamb, fish, or chicken with the traditional combination of cumin, turmeric, ginger, and black pepper, but what sets tajine apart from other Moroccan dishes is the addition of garlic, cinnamon, coriander, paprika, cardamom, and allspice, and a tajine is always slow-cooked for maximum flavor. This list may sound a bit long but every Moroccan spice cabinet includes all of these and more. The colorful blend and intoxicating fragrance will have your mouth watering before you’ve even started cooking! If the cost concerns you, rather than spending $8-$10 a piece for whole bottles of each spice, go to Whole Food’s spice counter and measure out exactly what you need into neat little pouches and save a bundle! If you become a hardcore fan of Moroccan food like me, why not mix up a bottle full of tajine blend to have on hand?
To test this beautiful tajine out for the first time, I selected Daniel Boulud’s chicken tagine with cauliflower, castelvetranos olives, and preserved meyer lemons that he serves at his restaurant Daniel Sud on the Upper West Side in New York City. I started this website with the idea of mastering the most complicated recipes of renowned chefs, and although this one looked like it would be very difficult, with some preparation it was in fact a pleasant afternoon spent grinding spices and practicing traditional cooking skills; and resulted in a fragrant, flavorful and colorful dish that would suit almost any occasion. Also, if you don’t yet have a tajine in your kitchen, you can make this in a dutch oven and the results should be pretty close and give you a solid first experience in Moroccan cooking. If it turns out that you enjoy Moroccan cooking as much as I do, I highly recommend picking up this tajine by Revol; it is truly a unique piece of cookware and a versatile addition to a well-equipped kitchen.
FOR THE PRESERVED LEMONS
Make at least 3 days before using them.
4-5 fresh lemons (I chose meyer lemons because they have a thin, tender peel)
5-6 tsp. sea salt
Slice 3 lemons in half and coat the cut surface in sea salt, then pack tightly in a small jar, sprinkle with a bit more salt, then fill the jar up with juice from the remaining lemon. Let sit for 3 days before use (or overnight in a pinch!) and up to 3 months for a really traditional flavor and texture. You can also find preserved lemons at some grocery stores and even using thinly sliced fresh lemon would work but I recommend making them 3 days in advance.
Daniel Boulud’s Chicken Tagine
recipe from the New York Times
Succulent, tender, and full of flavor, it features preserved lemons which are very easy to make.
*Note* If you are using a traditional clay tajine you must soak the pot overnight in water to prevent it from cracking in the oven. The Revol tajine requires no soaking.
FOR THE SPICE MIX
(Wherever you can, buy whole spices and grind just before use. Trust me, it makes a world of difference, especially the cumin)
3 ½ Tbsp. sweet paprika
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. cinnamon
3 Tbsp. ground coriander
1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. ground turmeric
1 Tbsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. ground cardamom
2 ½ tsp. ground allspice
FOR THE TAGINE
8 chicken thighs, approximately 3 pounds
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 Tbsp spice mix
⅓ c. extra-virgin olive oil
3 Roma tomatoes
1 head cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets
1 large white onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
1 pinch saffron
1 tsp. tomato paste
2 c. chicken stock, homemade or low-sodium
3 Tbsp. preserved lemons, approximately 2 lemons, roughly chopped
1 c. green olives, like Castelvetranos
½ bunch cilantro, leaves picked and stems discarded.
Combine the spices in a dry sauté pan set over low heat, and toast them gently until they release their fragrance, 2 minutes or so. Transfer to a bowl, and allow to cool.
Preheat oven to 350F. Season the chicken thighs with salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons of the spice mix and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat, and set a large bowl of ice water to the side. Core the tomatoes, and score an X on their bottoms. Boil the cauliflower florets in the water for 3 minutes, then submerge in ice water. Boil the tomatoes for 20 seconds then chill in ice water as well. Remove the cauliflower when it is cold, and pat dry. Peel the skin from the tomatoes then cut into quarters lengthwise. Trim away the seeds to make petals.
Heat the remaining olive oil in a large sauté pan set over medium heat, and sear the chicken in batches, starting skin-side down, until the thighs are browned. Remove the chicken to a large Dutch oven or tagine pot. Remove all but two tablespoons of the fat in pan, then return it to the heat, and brown the cauliflower and add to the chicken.
Reduce heat below the pan, and add the onion, garlic, ginger and saffron. Cook, stirring, until the onions are translucent, approximately 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and chicken stock, and simmer until reduced by 1/3.
Pour sauce over the chicken and cauliflower, cover the pot and transfer to oven for 20 minutes. Remove, stir in the tomatoes, preserved lemon and olives, then cover the pot again and cook for an additional 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Serve the chicken in the pot, garnished with the cilantro leaves, with couscous. Reserve remaining spice mix for the next batch or another use. It keeps well in a sealed container.
Revol Porcelaine France
The Art of Moroccan Cooking
Le 404 Restaurant, Paris France
WÜSTHOF CLASSIC IKON Paring Knife
Epicurean Salt Box
Epicurean Cutting Board
Maxwell Williams White Basics Cirque Conical Bowl