Tagine Djaj Bi Zaytoun Wal Hamid (Tagine of Chicken with Preserved Lemon)

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I think it’s finally time to come to the conclusion that not all food looks good. I suppose it’s a bit hard to make a yellow tinged chicken covered with a yellow sauce look appetizing, particularly in a picture. When I showed the picture to Angela, she agreed that it didn’t look good but did, without prompting, declare that it was good. So it at least has that going for it.

I had originally decided to preserve some lemons when citrus season first stated here in California. I didn’t really have a clue what I’d do with them but it seemed the right thing to do. Given the length of time they needed to mature, I had somewhat forgotten about them. They had been sitting in a mini-fridge that I use from time to time (it’s a good place to cool stock or for drying pancetta, for example).

For dinner the other night, I really wanted something different. I wanted something exotic but familiar, all at the same time. This recipe seemed a good fit, not least because I had all the ingredients that I needed.

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This recipe is apparently the classic Moroccan dish. Given my knowledge of Moroccan cooking (witness the Moroccan-style pork fiasco), I’ll have to trust the cookbook on that one. Despite my previous desicration of the cuisine of Morocco, I decided to modify the recipe. The original recipe had olives. I removed them partially because I don’t like them (as Will can attest, I’ve tried them multiple times and have yet to find any I like) and partially because I don’t have any. I also removed diced cilantro and parsley because I didn’t have any (our fresh produce stock was limited as we had been on vacation for a week and a half and the farmer’s market isn’t until Sunday).

I still think it turned out fairly well while still managing to be somewhat Moroccan (at least it wasn’t pork). It was pleasantly lemony without being overly tart. I’ll make it again when I want something exotic but familiar.

And, while it may seem like a good idea, don’t take a bite of preserved lemon right out of the container. I didn’t know anything could be quite that bitter and salty at the same time.

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Tagine Djaj Bi Zaytoun Wal Hamid (Tagine of Chicken with Preserved Lemon)
Adapted from Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey, and Lebanon
3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp saffron threads
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 chicken, cut into 6 pieces
salt and pepper
juice of 1/2 lemon
peel of 1 preserved lemon, diced

  1. Heat the olive oil in a wide sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until softened, then add the garlic, saffron, and ginger.
  2. Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Add the chicken to the pan. Pour in 1 1/4 cups water.
  3. Simmer, covered, turning occasionally for 15 minutes. Remove the breasts and cover with aluminum foil. Simmer for 25 more minutes. Return the breasts to the pan.
  4. Stir into the sauce the lemon juice and the preserved lemon peel. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Remove the chicken pieces and simmer the sauce for additional time if the sauce is still too thin.
  5. Serve the chicken with the sauce on top.

Serves 4.


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Lemons Preserved in Salt and Lemon Juice
Adapted from Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey, and Lebanon

4 lemons
4 tbsp kosher salt
juice of 4 additional lemons

  1. Clean the lemons thoroughly. Cut the lemons into quarters while still leaving the quarters attached at the stem end. Place 1 tbsp of salt in the center of each lemon. Put in a non-reactive container and store in a cool place for 3 to 4 days.
  2. Press the lemons down in the container as much as possible and then add the lemon juice to cover them. Store in a cool place for 1 month.

Makes 4 preserved lemons.

1 Response to “Tagine Djaj Bi Zaytoun Wal Hamid (Tagine of Chicken with Preserved Lemon)”


  1. 1 Lunes April 14, 2008 at 1:09 am

    This is a recipe I have cooked in the past and love it! I think you have done it great justice too. I also like to add potatoes and roasted almonds! Bon appétit!


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