Djaj Bil Assal (Chicken with Caramelized Baby Onions and Honey)

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To a certain extent, this is penance. For some reason, it never clicked that Moroccan-Style Pork Tenderloin couldn’t be Moroccan because of the pork. I was just looking for a new way to cook pork tenderloin.

But it made me wonder what Moroccan food was. Middle Eastern cuisine isn’t something that I’m intimately familiar with. The closest I’ve come is one of several Lebanese restaurants in the area. What I’ve had I’ve liked but Lebanon isn’t that geographically close to Morocco.

So my only connection to Moroccan food is through cookbooks and thankfully I’ve moved on from the one that directed me to Moroccan-styled Pork Tenderloin. I chose Chicken with Caramelized Baby Onions and Honey because we had chicken on-hand and it seemed suitably exotic as well as not terribly difficult.

All of which were true. Chicken with cinnamon is an unusual flavor combination to my western taste buds. It’s not bad by far. It’s just different. I actually liked it even if I wouldn’t want to eat it every day. They honey added a pleasant sweetness without being overpowering. It also managed to caramelize significantly.

I did make a slight mistake when I made it. I originally missed the addition of the onions right after the white chicken meat is removed. I realized it about 10 minutes later when I went to turn the chicken. The onions were fully cooked but they didn’t manage to caramelize quite as much as was indicated in the original recipe. I didn’t notice that much of a difference but it may be even better with properly caramelized onions (hence the title).

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Djaj Bil Assal (Chicken with Caramelized Baby Onions and Honey)
Adapted from Arabesque

1 lbs. pearl onions
1 onion, diced
4 tbsp vegetable oil
pinch of saffron threads
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 chicken, cut into pieces
salt and pepper
1 tbsp honey

  1. Blanch the pearl onions in boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain. Once the onions are cool, peel them and cut off the root end.
  2. Dry the chicken with paper towels on all sides. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Sauté the diced onion in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  4. Stir in the saffron, ginger, and cinnamon.
  5. Brown the chicken on both sides in the skillet, in batches if necessary. Return all the chicken to the skillet.
  6. Add 1 cup water and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, turning the chicken once. Remove the white meat pieces of chicken to a side dish and add the peeled pearl onions. Cover again and simmer for 25 minutes, turning the chicken onces.
  7. Remove the chicken to a side dish. Stir the honey into the pan. Cook, uncovered, over medium-high heat until the water has evaporated and the pearl onions have caramelized.
  8. Return the chicken to the skillet and simmer until the chicken is warmed through.
  9. Serve the chicken topped with the pearl onions and the sauce.

Serves 4.

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7 Responses to “Djaj Bil Assal (Chicken with Caramelized Baby Onions and Honey)”


  1. 1 Lunes January 11, 2008 at 8:03 am

    Mmm I like the sound of this recipe, chicken & honey good combination. Will have to bookmark it for a rainy day! I hope the chicken is free range?

  2. 2 Matt January 11, 2008 at 8:56 am

    The chicken I used was free range. Some of the chicken’s I get are from Trader Joe’s and some are from the farmer’s market (the farmer’s market people are only there every other week).

  3. 4 Angela January 17, 2008 at 4:47 am

    This looks wonderful! I should really pull Arabesque off the shelf and use it more. (I think I’ve read t far more than I’ve actually cooked from it. It does make great reading, though!)

  4. 5 Hillary January 17, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    I usually don’t like onions but this dish looks and sounds so appealing! Mmmmm…

  5. 6 Emily A. January 28, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    I made this for my family tonight and it came out AWESOME.

    I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of the whole chicken–they came out really, really juicy and delicious.

    Also, our grocery store didn’t carry fresh pearl onions, so I just used frozen ones–instead of blanching them, I just cooked them according to package directions and then rinsed off the sauce they’re packaged in.

    I served it over whole wheat couscous.

    Definitely a keeper: delicious!

  6. 7 Matt January 29, 2008 at 8:55 am

    I’m glad it turned out well for you. I generally prefer bone-on chicken because the bones add extra flavor. My wife likes boneless chicken. So when I make things that involve a whole chicken I keep the bones on the dark meat and make the white meat boneless. That way we’re both happy.

    What I liked about the recipe is how different it is. It takes like nothing else in my “normal” repertoire.


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