While I love a slow cooker and my braiser, at the first sign of cold weather I pull out my tagine. A tagine is a cooking vessel originally from Morocco with a conical top that sits on the stove or can be used in the oven. I received one as a wedding gift years ago and I use it constantly: for beef, pork, lamb, vegetables – even turkey thighs. It’s essentially an old-fashioned slow cooker: throw the veggies and meat in the pot and simmer for a few hours. (The word tagine applies to both the cooking vessel and the dish itself.) Mine is a fire-engine red version with a cast-iron base from Le Creuset but you can find other brands at cookware stores like Sur La Table and online.
This is one of my favorite tagine recipes, a tangy spiced chicken dish using classic Moroccan ingredients that is divine served with a platter of basmati rice. (For more on tagines check out authors Paula Wolfert and Claudia Roden; they are both authorities on Moroccan cuisine.)
MOROCCAN CHICKEN TAGINE
1 whole large chicken, cut into 8 pieces
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 large bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon saffron
2 tablespoons sea salt
2 onions, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 cup green olives, pitted
3 small preserved lemons, pulp removed (you can find them in specialty stores; if you don’t have any substitute 2 tablespoons lemon juice)
Rinse and dry chicken and place onto a clean plate.
For the marinade: In a large bowl, mix three tablespoons olive oil, the coriander, cinnamon, saffron, salt, half the onions, garlic, cumin, ginger, paprika, and turmeric. Mix thoroughly, crush the garlic with your fingers, and add a little water to make a paste.
Roll the chicken pieces into the marinade and leave for 10 to 15 minutes.
To cook, heat the tagine base on medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Drop in the chicken and pour excess marinade juices over the top. Add the remaining onions, olives, and chopped preserved lemons. Place the lid on the base, bring to a boil, and immediately reduce to a simmer.
Simmer on low for 50 minutes to 1 hour. (While chicken is cooking excess juices will bubble up and pool around the edges of the tagine; just carefully ladle the juice out into a bowl. After the chicken is cooked transfer the bowl of juices to a saucepan and cook on high, reducing the liquid for about 5 minutes — essentially making a gravy — and serve on top of the chicken.)