Chicken Tagine with Lemons and Olives
Chicken with Olives and Lemons (Djej Emshmel)
—-from Paula Wolfert’s classic cookbook Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco
NOTE: in Khenifra they put french fries on top but evidently not in Fes. So they are optional. Or you could add quartered (lengthwise) potatoes into the sauce towards the end so they don’t get too mushy.
2 to 3 chickens, whole or quartered with their livers (very important to have the chicken livers). Or you could do cut up chicken with two pieces of chicken per person you are going to serve the meal to. And buy organic chicken livers separately because you never want to eat “junk” livers from any animal—full of toxins.
6 cloves garlic
1tsp ginger (I use 2 tsp ginger)
1 tsp paprika sweet (I use 1 tsp paprika)
1/4 tsp cumin (I use 1 tsp paprika)
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup oil (olive oil)
2 1/2 cups grated onion, drained
1/4 tsp saffron or 1/8 tsp saffron and 1/8 tsp turmeric
1/2 cup minced parsley and cilantro
1 1/2 cups ripe pitted “green-brown” olives such as Royal Victorian (I use Kalamata)
2 preserved lemons
2 to 3 fresh lemons
NOTE: (I have never done this first step but it sounds like it really increases the flavor). The day before rub the chicken with 4 cloves of smashed or pounded garlic together with two tablespoons of salt. Rub it and then wash it off. Then marinate the chicken using the remaining two cloves of the garlic (minced), the spices and the oil. Refrigerate covered.
NOTE: (I have never made it with the livers but I think I would love it even more. But it still tastes great without the livers). Next day place chicken, livers, and marinade in the casserole. Add 1/2 cup grated onion, saffron,fresh herbs, and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer 30 minutes turning the chicken often in the sauce. While the chickens are cooking, rinse the olives. If they are green bitter olives, cover with cold water, bring to a boil and drain. Set aside.
Remove the chicken livers from the casserole and mash them fine. Return to the casserole with grated, drained onions. Together these help thicken the sauce. Add water if necessary. Taste the sauce add another dose of same spices in same proportion if necessary. Continue cooking 20 minutes, partially uncovered.
Rinse the preserved lemons (discarding the pulp if desired) and quarter. Add the olives and the preserved lemon quarters to the sauce when the chickens are very tender and the flesh falls easily from the bone. Continue cooking 5 to 10 minutes, uncovered.
Transfer the chickens to a serving dish and spoon the olives and lemons around them. Cover and keep warm. By boiling rapidly uncovered reduce the sauce to 1 1/2 cups. Add the juice of 2 fresh lemons to the sauce . Add more salt and lemon juice…pour over the chickens
Serve with hot French Baguettes or homemade Moroccan round loaves of bread.