How to Make Moroccan Chicken Tajine for Two
A tajine, also spelled tagine, is a traditional dish from Morocco. The variations are endless, and every Moroccan cook has her own secrets. I learned the art of the tajine when I lived in Morocco.
When cooking with a tajine pot, you need to soak it in water for several hours ahead of time. Otherwise the heat from the stove could cause it to crack. If you do not have a tajine, a dutch oven or heavy sauce pot works, too.
Prep: 10 minutes
Hands-on: 25 minutes
Simmer: 45 minutes
Total: 1 hour 20 minutes
Serving: 1/8 chicken (leg or thigh) and 1/2 c vegetables
- 2 T olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 quarter chicken (leg and thigh), with bone and skin
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
- 1 tsp ras al hanoot
- 1/4 tsp powdered turmeric
- ½ c potatoes, chopped into 1” pieces
- ½ c baby carrots, sliced
- 1 apple, chopped into ½“ pieces
- ¼ bunch parsley and cilantro (dried works well, too), chopped
- 1 tsp kosher or sea salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 c chicken broth
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Moroccan Chicken Tajine
|Serving size: 1 c|
|Calories from Fat||180|
|% Daily Value *|
|Fat 20 g||31%|
|Saturated fat 4 g||20%|
|Carbohydrates 31 g||10%|
|Sugar 15 g|
|Fiber 6 g||24%|
|Protein 12 g||24%|
|Cholesterol 29 mg||10%|
|Sodium 700 mg||29%|
|* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.|
- Heat oil over medium-high heat in a tajine or dutch oven.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and add chopped onion. Saute until golden, about 7 minutes.
- Add garlic. Saute until golden, about 2 minutes.
- Increase heat to medium-high. Add chicken to tajine. Add all spices, from cumin to turmeric, directly onto chicken, almost in the manner of a rub. (The point is for the spices to flavor and color the meat directly)
- Brown chicken on all sides, about 4 minutes per side. Remove from heat.
- Layer potatoes and carrots on bottom. Place chicken on top. Add apple pieces. Sprinkle parsley and cilantro. Add salt and pepper. Pour chicken broth into bottom of tajine, careful not to wash spices off chicken. Cover.
- Bring liquid to a simmer, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat and let cook until chicken is done, about 45 minutes.
- Remove from heat. Let stand about 5 minutes.
- Serve with bread or pita.
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The dish called tajine (sometimes spelled tagine) gets its name from the pot in which it is cooked. The tajine pot is traditionally earthenware and is made up of two parts: the circular base and the cone-shaped top. The cone of the top circulates the steam that builds up inside the tajine. The tajine dish is typical in Morocco.
A tajine dish is a layered stew. You always start by browning the meat at a high heat to seal in the juices; I like to sauté the onions and garlic, too, to add flavor to the meat. Spices are added directly to the meat to flavor and color it directly. For the assembly, denser vegetables such as potatoes and carrots go beneath the meat. Vegetables and fruit that cook more quickly go on top of the meat. Liquid is added at the bottom to promote braising of the denser vegetables and the meat and steaming of the top-most vegetables.
Travelers to Morocco may not think tajines are delicious if they only eat them in tourist restaurants: I rarely found restaurant tajines to be spiced well, and a good tajine should be well-spiced. A better option is the tiny restaurants off the main by-ways, especially if you see them being cooked on a grill. If you see scores of Moroccan workers sitting and eating the tajine, you have found an authentic place worth navigating the language barrier. The best tajine is home-made. If a Moroccan ever promises to show you how to cook a tajine, jump at the chance!
Buying tajine pots in Morocco is a different story. As you travel through the markets, you will see stacks of tajines both naturally-colored and beautifully-painted. By all means, buy them and attempt to get the cone home intact. However, it is unwise to use a tajine pot bought in a Moroccan market to cook with. It is possible the clay is filled with impurities, and many of the glazes are lead-based. I bought beautiful decorative tajines in Morocco and purchased my cooking tajine at World Market in the U.S.
Tajine can be served directly in the dish. In Morocco, guests all eat from the same pot, using bread or silverware to scoop up their portion each time. If observing this tradition, you are meant to only eat from the side in front of you – don’t go hunting for choice pieces. However, with a tajine for two, it is acceptable to offer each other delectable pieces from your potion.
Delicious ethnic food? Intimate meal?
Ras el Hanout
Ras el hanout is a spice blend that makes the tajine dish flavorful. Directly translated, ras el hanout means “head of the store.” The blend of ground spices can include the following: cardamom, clove, cinnamon, ground chile peppers, coriander, allspice, nutmeg, different colors of pepper, and turmeric. The above comprises the traditional 9-spice blend. There is also a 40-spice blend that includes several peppercorn colors, mace, cumin, anise, ginger… Moroccan shopkeeps joke that the 40-spice blend is for “bad cooks” because it can mask real flavoring. In truth, I have both varieties, and it is true that the individualities of the spice flavoring do not come through in the 40-spice blend as they do in the traditional.
You can buy ras el hanout at any Arabic food market or specialty spice shop. Failing that, you can mix the spices together yourself. When cooking chicken or fish, you still want to add the extra turmeric for color.
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