Preserving Culture

I LOVE Middle Eastern food. It is a joy I discovered when I lived in Paris, which is home to countless Arabian/African people. I am very proud to attest that my restaurant (Bojangles) was “Halal” — a  place where one could eat food that ascribed to Muslim dietary practices (pork cooked only in segregated pots, chickens with head and feet intact,  purchased from a bonafied butcher).

I am also proud to say I personally own an authentic Tagine = the clay pot used in cooking authentic Arabic cuisine… AND a couscous pot.

Most of us tend to forget that Arabic countries are in AFRICA. (I take issue with the thought that European culture is revered to the exclusion of others when our cuisine is older than most.)

The dish  I am presenting here is a chicken tagine cooked with preserved lemons. It is a dish that takes patience if you REALLY want to do it right.

The key ingredient (besides the chicken) is preserved lemons, which are a staple of Arabic cuisine. Once the tart lemons are preserved in salt, they take on an entirely new character. If you want a shortcut for this recipe, forego the preserved lemons and just use fresh. However, I would not advise that because the “real deal” is soooooooooooooooo much better.

FIRST, you have to preserve the lemons. To do that:

Lemons - PreservedTAKE 12 lemons. WASH them. SQUEEZE out the juice and reserve. CUT 4 vertical seams in each lemon. STUFF the seams with Kosher salt. PACK the lemons into a jar so they are squashed together. POUR in the juice. Every few days, CRUNCH the lemons down into the juice. SAVE them for at least a month and then… they are ready for cooking. They will last indefinitely.

Now, to make the chicken tagine:

Chicken Tagine

INDREDIENTS

¼ cup     oil (olive)
3#           chicken (cut into pieces)
2 cups    water
1 cup     olives (mixed black and green, pitted)

SEASONING

1 tsp      pepper (coarse black)
1 tsp      pepper (crushed red)
1 tsp      cumin
1 tbs      paprika
1 tbs      parsley
2x           cinnamon (stick)
½ tsp      sumac (Egyptian spice; use saffron instead)
2 tbs      bouillon (chicken, powdered)
1 bunch cilantro  (fresh, chopped fine)
2 tbs      ginger (fresh, chopped fine)
1 tbs      garlic (crushed)
1x           onion (chopped fine)
4 tbs      lemon juice (new juice, not from the preserved lemons)

DIRECTIONS

MIX seasoning in a bowl (dried seasoning first)
RUB seasoning on chicken pieces
MARINATE chicken for 30 minutes (or more)
SHAKE seasoning off of chicken and reserve
BROWN chicken in olive oil, using a large skillet
TRANSFER chicken to a Dutch oven as pieces are done
SAUTE reserved seasoning in “dirty” oil
ADD water
COOK for about 10 minutes, until sauce is formed
POUR sauce over chicken in Dutch oven and STIR
COVER & SIMMER for about 15 minutes
ADD olives and lemons
STIR
COOK for a further 10 minutes
SERVE with couscous

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1 Comment

  1. AkaziaJ said,

    14 March 2013 at 8:22 pm

    Sound super yummy. I think I’ve had the preserved lemons in a soup. Thanks for sharing.


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