Moroccan tagine: It’s more about the method than the pot
No, you don’t need a special pot to make a tagine, says Anissa Helou in Feast: Food of the Islamic World. In Morocco, the traditional earthenware pots that give the stew its name are used mostly by street vendors and rural folk. In the cities, the majority of home cooks make tagine in a heavy cast-iron or stainless steel pot, then transfer it to a beautifully decorated ceramic dish for serving at the table.
In the tagine below, the sweet flavor of carrots is “exquisitely offset” by the tartness of lemons and saltiness of olives. You can substitute a whole chicken for the poussins, but don’t swap out the preserved lemons—which you can make yourself if you put them up in a cool, dark place a few weeks ahead of time.
Note that for a tagine, the meat is browned after it has cooked and the cooking liquid has evaporated down to a silky sauce. I love to serve this tagine with a Moroccan bread flavored with anise and sesame seed.
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely grated
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
¼ bunch flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
¾ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp finely ground black pepper
A good pinch of saffron threads
2 poussins or Cornish hens, or substitute 4 quail or a whole chicken
1 lb Chantenay or baby carrots, trimmed and brushed clean
A few sprigs cilantro, leaves only, finely chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
3½ oz unpitted Kalamata olives
½ preserved lemon (see below), peel only, sliced into thin julienne
In a heavy pot, mix olive oil, onion, gar lic, parsley, spices, and a little sea salt. Spread to cover bottom and lay poussins, breast up, on top. Add 2 cups water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and let bubble gently for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure poussins don’t stick to pan.
Add carrots, cilantro (reserving some for garnish), lemon juice, olives, and preserved lemon. Reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer until poussins and carrots are done and the sauce has thickened, about 15 minutes.
Transfer poussins to a serving dish. If sauce is still too liquid, increase heat and let it bubble uncovered until it thickens and becomes somewhat silky. Arrange carrots and olives around poussins and spoon sauce all over. Garnish with reserved chopped cilantro. Serves 2 to 4.
Wash unwaxed lemons and quarter lengthwise without cutting all the way through, leaving quarters attached at one end. Spread 1 tsp sea salt inside each of 2 quarters for a total of 2 tsp per lemon. Pack lemons tightly in a canning jar and seal. Let sit for 3 to 4 weeks.