Moroccan chicken tagine with cauliflower

Credit: Thomas Schauer

Tagine is one of the most soulful dishes of Northwest Africa and refers to both the food itself and the vessel in which it is often cooked and served. The most classic tagines are made with lamb, chicken, goat, and vegetables, and the delicate and tangy flavors that the region is known for are expressed in this quintessential Berber dish.

What’s wonderful about my Moroccan-inspired tagine is that the spices bring a delicious, warm finish, rather than a hot and spicy one. Tagine is one of the great recipes where everything is cooked together and both meat and vegetables get equal attention.

Create a mix of toasty spices using a mortar and pestle to grind everything together for a blend that lends an exotic finish. Briny olives and preserved lemon add complexity and contrast to the earthy notes of saffron, cardamom, cinnamon, sweet paprika, and coriander, creating a harmonious combination.

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Instructions

Step 1: Spice mix

In a large dry sauté pan, toast the spices over low heat. Transfer to a mortar and pestle and grind until well combined. Store in a dry, covered container.

You could also use a clean, handheld coffee grinder to blend your spices.

Step 2: Chicken tagine

Butcher the chicken into breasts, legs, and thighs. Remove the bones from the thighs and the wing tips from the breasts. Season the chicken on all sides with 2 tablespoons (11 g) of the spice mix and 3 tablespoons (45 ml) of the olive oil. Save all the bones for the chicken stock.

Step 3: Cauliflower and tomatoes

Trim the cauliflower into bite-sized florets.

Core the tomatoes and score an ”x” on the bottoms. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and set a bowl of ice water on the side. Boil the cauliflower florets for 3 minutes and then submerge in the ice water. When chilled, drain and pat dry. Boil the tomatoes for 20 seconds, chill in the ice water, and peel the skins. Cut into quarters lengthwise and trim away the seeds to make petals.

Preheat oven to 350ºF (175ºC). Heat the remaining olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Sear the chicken, starting skin-side down until lightly browned (you may need to do this in batches), and then transfer to a tagine or 5-quart Dutch oven. In the same sauté pan, sear the cauliflower until golden and transfer to the tagine with the chicken.

Reduce the heat of the sauté pan to medium-low heat, add the onion, garlic, ginger, saffron, and spice mix. Cook, stirring for 3 to 4 minutes or until onions are translucent.

Add the tomato paste and chicken stock, and simmer until reduced by 1/3.

Pour sauce into the tagine over the chicken. Cover, and transfer to the oven for 20 minutes. Remove, stir in the tomatoes, preserved lemon rind, and olives, re-cover and cook for 20 more minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Serve chicken in the tagine and garnish with cilantro leaves.

This dish is great served with a semolina couscous or fragrant basmati rice.

This recipe was originally published in "My Best Daniel Boulud" (Éditions Alain Ducasse). See all credits

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