Cristina Cooks: Spring Chicken Tagine With Preserved Lemon And Feta
6 chicken thighs, bone-in (skin optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons ginger, peeled and grated
3 garlic cloves, minced and divided
2 teaspoons cumin, toasted and ground
2 teaspoons cinnamon, ground
2 teaspoons coriander, ground
1 cup spring onion, sliced thin on a bias
1 cup fava beans, blanched and shelled (if unavailable you can substitute limas)
4 carrots, peeled and sliced diagonally into 1inch lengths
1 large fennel bulb, quartered, cored, and sliced 1/8th inch thick
4 baby artichokes, cleaned, and quartered
3 tablespoons preserved lemon, insides removed
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 pinch saffron threads
2 cinnamon sticks
2 ½ cups chicken stock (or vegetable)
1 bay leaf (preferably fresh)
½ cup ripe green olives, pitted (such as Castelveltranos)
⅓ cup feta, crumbled
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
⅓ cup fresh cilantro, leaves picked
A la Chef Hayley Christopher
To extract the most out of your saffron threads, pound saffron threads in a mortar and pestle to a fine powder. Next, dissolve strands by adding a few tablespoons of stock and add “saffron stock” back into the rest of the stock.
Prepare chicken by seasoning with salt, pepper, and drizzle with 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil. In a small bowl, combine: ginger, ½ the garlic, cumin, cinnamon, and coriander, stirring to combine. Season chicken liberally, on both sides with spices and marinate for at least an hour, preferably overnight.
Remove chicken from the refrigerator 30 minutes prior to cooking, allowing to come to room temperature. Heat tagine over medium-high heat and sear chicken in batches, skin-side down until golden brown. Set aside. NOTE: You can substitute a dutch oven or flat bottom skillet with a fitted lid for the Tagine.
Saute onions until translucent, add garlic and cook a minute further. Add favas and carrots, sautéing for a minute longer. Add chicken to tagine, along with fennel, artichokes, preserved lemon, turmeric, “saffron stock”, chicken stock, and bay leaf. Bring mixture to a boil and reduce to a simmer, cooking until chicken is tender and reached a temperature of 160 degrees. Just before serving stir in green olives, fava beans and garnish tagine with feta, mint, and cilantro. Serve hot with couscous.
Soak the lid and the base in water for at least 2 hours, or overnight. As some clay cookware is quite large, you may need to get creative. Use a large bucket, a bathtub, a sink, a laundry room wash basin, a plastic basin. If you can't find something large enough to accommodate the top of a tagine, invert the tagine lid and fill it with water instead.
Drain the water and dry the tagine (or other clay cookware). If the cookware is unglazed, rub the interior and exterior of the lid and base with olive oil.
Place the tagine or other clay cookware in a cold oven. Turn the oven on to 300° F (150° C), and set the timer for 2 hours.
After 2 hours, turn off the oven, and leave the tagine to cool completely in the oven. Wash the cooled tagine by hand, and coat the interior with olive oil before storing or using.
Authentic Moroccan clay and ceramic tagines will crack if subjected to high heat. (The same applies to other types of clay cookware.) Unless otherwise directed, use a low burner setting or an oven temperature of no more than 325° F (160° C), and wait patiently for the tagine to reach a simmer. Heat diffusers are recommended for cooking on a burner.
Tagines and other clay cookware may also crack if subjected to rapid changes in temperature. Avoid this by not adding cold food or liquids to a hot tagine, and by taking care not to place a hot tagine on a cold surface. Similarly, don't add hot liquids to a cold tagine, or place a cold tagine in a preheated oven.
Hand wash your tagine with very mild soap, baking soda or vinegar, and rinse well. Leave the tagine to dry thoroughly, and then lightly coat the interior of the lid and base with olive oil before storing.