Tagine Cooking; . . . Moroccan Cuisine At It's Very Best!!
1) - About Tagines; For Those Who've Never Tried Them
Tagines are Moroccan stovetop / baking vessels with saucer like bases and conical tops. When cooking, they cause steam to rise to the top of the lid, then circulate back around the food, imparting a luxurious, full flavor to whatever is being cooked in them
Tagines are typically made of fired clay, although there are many very high quality cast iron ones as well.
They're generally available in 9" and 12" sizes, with the 9" being ideal for 1 - 2 people, and the 12 " working 2- 4 people.
Expect to pay $19 - $39 for the 9" clay models, and $39 - $59 for the 12" clay models. (Clay tagines are also available with more decorative painted designs but are a bit more expensive.)
The cast iron tagines are appreciably more, with 9" units going for $89 and up, and the 12" ones going for $129 and up. (We've used the 9" clay ones for years, with absolutely no complaints!!)
(One of the things to remember about cooking with tagines is that they work best over low to medium heat on stovetops, and at no more than 325' in the oven, on a center rack,)
(I know one college kid living off campus who does a tagine almost every night for dinner in his apt., as they're easy to put together, he can study or relax for an hour while its cooking, and there are no extra dishes to deal with afterwards.)
2) - Season Your New Tagine Once, When You First Get It, Then Simply Enjoy It.
When you get your tagine, it will need to be prepped for use. This usually involves coating the inside with olive oil, and baking it at 325' for an hour or two prior to your first use. (Be sure to read the manufacturer's instructions accompanying your particular tagine.)
Once its been prepped, it will be ready for years of easy, trouble free use.
Wash it according to manufacturer's instructions. We simply sponge our clay tagines lightly with soap and cold water, then dry them before putting them away.
3) - Try Making One Of These Exotic, Delicious Slow Cooked Moroccan Tagines.
Plan your meal an hour or so ahead, preheat your oven to 325', and you're on your way to a delicious, exotic, slow cooked Moroccan meal that everyone in your family will love, and that can be eaten out of the tagine that you cooked it in!! (I try to have one ready for my wife and myself at least twice a week, so that when she pulls into the garage, I'm just taking the tagine out of the oven.)
4) - These Are A Few Typical Tagine Ingredients
Try these, or do as we've done, and adapt tagine cooking to the ingredients that you enjoy.
Eggplant is a typical tagine ingredient, as is corn on the cob or canned corn, rice, kalamata olives, sweet potato, and lemon slices.
Usual protiens are fish, chicken, and sausage, or any combination of these. (We love swordfish tagines, as well as chicken / sausage, and we infrequently do completely vegetarian tagines.) (Also, as a concession to our ever expanding waistlines, we often use rice as our only carb, eliminating the potatoes.)
5) - Microwave Potatoes Beforehand
Slice potatos into 1/2 " slices. or into wedges, and microwave on high for 2 - 3 min., or until the potatos have softened slightly. (If not microwaved, they will be cooked when you take the tagine out of the oven, but quite firm.)
We always peel our sweet potatos, but leave our red potatos unpeeled, as they have a less thick, more edible skin.) We also season potatos well with salt and black pepper before placing in the tagine, as we find that they need seasonong to define their flavor in the dish.
6) - Preheat Your Oven To 325", Then Start Building Your Meal.
I use 9" clay tagines, which I find are the perfect size for two hungry people.
The first step is to add 1/3 cup of uncooked Jasmine rice to the bottom of the tagine, along with 1/8 teaspoon of turmeric, 1/8 teaspoon of yellow curry powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.(We also add 1/2 - 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper, when we're looking for something a little spicier.)
For a rice cooking liquid, we generally use about 1/2 cup of liquid from canned corn, as this, combined with the spices, imparts a delicious flavor to the rice and subsequent sauce. (I will add some of the canned corn or 2" pcs. an ear of corn on the cob later in the recipe.) (The amount of liquid can be varied somewhat, depending on whether you want sauce with your rice, or a drier, fluffier rice, but you would probably not use more than 1/2 cup per 1/3 cup of rice.)
7) - If Using Chicken; Season And Sear Well.
Use 2 chicken thighs, or a thigh and some of your favorite sausage (we love Trader Joe's apple - chicken sausage). Season the chicken thigh(s) with salt, pepper, chili powder and lime seasoning, and then sear in a hot frying pan until browned on both sides, prior to going into the tagine.
Place them side by side on top of the rice and corn mixture, then place your other ingredients around and on top of them.
8) - When Using Fish, Be Sure To Season It Well.
We love to use either swordfish, salmon or a couple of tilapia fillets as the protein in our tagines. (Since fish is somewhat delicate, we don't sear it on the stovetop, but we season it well with salt, black pepper, chili powder and lime seaoning.)
It is then placed in the middle of the tagine, on top of the rice and corn mixture.
(When we're working with frozen fish, which we put directly into the tagine without searing , or even partially frozen fish which,we frequently use, we've learned to reduce the amount of rice cooking liquid that we use, from approx. 1/2 cup, by perhaps 1/8 cup, or even more, as there tends to be a lot of water in frozen fish.)
9) - Top With 2 Lemon Slices Before Cooking.
This is optional, but we find that the lemon slices, or 1/4 cup of lemon juice add a nice flavor element to the dish.
Place the lemon slices atop the protein in the center of the tagine, or drip the lemon juice around the perimeter, then cover, place on a half sheet pan, and put on the middle rack in your 325' oven.
10) - When Done, Add A Couple Of Tomato Slices, And 1/4 Cup Frozen Peas.
Once you've removed your tagine from the oven after cooking for an hour, uncover and add the tomato and peas.
Put the tomato slices on top, sprinkle the peas around, place the cover back on the tagine and let it sit for 5 min. This will give the frozen peas time to thaw and warm, and the tomato a little time to warm up
Serve and enjoy!!