I might have discovered my love of meat sauce over rice from living in Taiwan, or my love of roast chicken over rice from living in a Latino neighborhood in Manhattan, or the whole affair might have been cinched when I bought a roast chicken from an Egyptian guy here in France, who said that the sauce was so finger-lickin’ good I’d have to be careful not to bite my fingers when I ate it. In any case, I have a love affair with meat (especially chicken) with sauce over rice.
A tajine (or tagine, or tajin) is a clay pot with a domed top from North Africa that is used to simmer dishes for a long period of time. My first introduction to this dish was when my Moroccan friend Amina (who reads my blog and will surely have something to say about my unorthodox way of preparing a tajine) took time from her busy family of five (with one more on the way) to make a chicken tajine for our whole family so we could enjoy this delicious dish from her country.
I remember learning this from her, and then my perspective broadened when another Moroccan acquaintance lent me her tajine recipe book, before moving back to Morocco without remembering to collect it from me. From this I learned that there are so many other possibilities of tajines – fish, seafood, beef, lamb, vegetables. And you can prepare it with so many different flavors: raisins and cumin and pears – oh my!
I have a recipe that I make all the time, loosely based on Amina’s recipe, loosely based on that book that is now in my possession, loosely based on this recipe, but largely based on what works for me.
Shall we get started? There are only two things to know. One – wear old clothes. Two – turn the chicken carefully with two long firm utensils so that it doesn’t fall back into the sauce and splash the turmeric all over your white walls. Not like I’ve ever done that or anything.
Actually there are three things – the hardest part of making this is at the very beginning, so if you can get through that, you will have the most delicious dish waiting for your dinner that you have eaten in a long, long time. You will have to be careful not to accidentally bite your fingers.
I don’t have a tajine pot. So …
Brown the chicken on all sides.
(This is hot and greasy and messy – I’m sorry. There’s no way around it unless you want to skip this step. But I wouldn’t).
You can probably use powdered ginger in a pinch, but I buy and peel a whole piece of ginger, cut it in large cubes and freeze it for just such a use. You could also probably make your life easier by adding frozen onions and garlic too instead of the fresh. Or you could just throw it all in the cuisinart.
Aren’t the colors so pretty? Aren’t they so Moroccan looking?
Then you’ll need a tablespoon of sea salt (maybe less if it’s table salt – not sure – start with ½ tablespoon). I thought it was not enough until I added the olives. Then I found that amount to be just enough.
I like my dishes really tomatoey.
These lemons had tons of juice, so I wasn’t careful about using every drop. I let quite a bit go with the pulp. It was perfectly to taste, I must say.
Serve it over white rice, which soaks up the spicy, colorful sauce, and you will be surrounded with slavish adoration on all sides – from your own kids all the way over to the surly neighbor who lives down the street. For yes – the perfumed aroma can woo even the surly.
(Optional additions: cilantro, chili pepper, black pepper, pickled lemons, but then cut down on the lemon juice to just one).
And … hugs everyone. If you were here I would make it for you.
- whole chicken
- 4 onions
- 6 cloves of garlic
- 2 two inch pieces of ginger
- ⅓-1/2 cup olive oil
- 1T turmeric
- 1T paprika
- ¼t saffron
- 1T sea salt
- 2 small cans of crushed tomatoes
- 3 lemons
- 160 grams pitted, drained green olives
- rice – on the side
- Braise the chicken on all sides, then remove to a plate.
- Chop the onions, garlic and ginger and sauté in olive oil.
- Add all the spices and sauté together.
- Return the chicken to the pot and add the tomatoes.
- Juice the lemons and add the juice.
- Simmer for over 2 hours, turning every 20-30 minutes.
- Add the olives.
- Serve hot over rice.