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Cooking Chicken Tagine In Marrakech

I’ve been home a week and still can’t stop thinking about Morocco. For me, one of the best ways to keep a great memory alive is through food. So I guess I’ll be cooking a lot of Moroccan dishes for a while. A Moroccan twist to Thanksgiving? A Christmas tagine? Couscous to ring in the New Near? 

But to start, I’ll share one of the best days my friend, Bettina and I had in magical Marrakech. The city attacks your senses in the most delightful way. The smell of the tagines in the medina, the sight of the snake charmers, the sound of the call to prayer five times a day, the taste of the thick sweet coffee called nous nous that’s made with espresso and sweetened condensed milk, and the feel of strangers in their kaftans and jalabas walking with their mules loaded with hides or bunches of coriander pressing against you as you wander through the tight, narrow passages of the medina.

The sensory overload is amazing–you can’t bring it home with you. But I did bring home the spices so I can re-create the tastes of many memorable meals. (Well, maybe not the pigeon dishes). I’ll invite friends over, make a chicken tagine, sip a little mint tea (or Moroccan terre rouge wine) while it’s cooking, put on some Moroccan music and experience a State-side Moroccan night. 

Bettina and I attended this cooking class at La Maison Arabe in Marrakech with three other travelers on our National Geographic Expedition to Morocco. 

 Thanks so much, Mamie, for inviting me. The cooking class was really fun.

Beau, thanks for the laughs, the voices and…well, being Beau and Tande for the fun times we shared or didn’t at Ganesha High School. JD, (sorry no photo here) thanks for making it all happen. 

I’m so glad I can share this meal with you. It’s very simple to make–and if you don’t have a tagine, just use a Dutch oven or La Creuset. 

  • 400 grams of chicken, skinned, not boned (1 breast, 1 thigh and a leg)
  • 1/2 preserved lemon
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbs. parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tbs. cilantro, finely chopped (or they they call it, coriander)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger powder
  • 1 heaping tsp. turmeric
  • a pinch of saffron
  • 1 TBS. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. clarified butter
  • 10 TBS. water
  • olives
  • red pepper flakes (optional if you like it hot–I do!)

This is our state-of-the-art kitchen “classroom” and Aida, our chef. (Note we each had a computer screen in case we needed extra visual help).

Here are all the ingredients. So simple. It’s the spices that make it so good. Moroccan cooking is very healthy–a lot of fruits and vegetables. And the spices. Lots of spices for the chicken–pepper, turmeric, ginger.

Cut the preserved lemon in half and separate the peel from the flesh. Remove the seeds and the membrane and chop very fine. Save the peel; it will be the garnish at the end. (You can purchase preserved lemons at several stores or even on Amazon).

Add the chopped lemon, garlic, parsley, coriander and onion to the tagine.
Mix in all the spices and stir.

Score the chicken so it will absorb the seasoning–something new I learned. (I might have scored mine a little too deeply, but it was fine). Roll the chicken in the spice mixture to thoroughly coat it.

After the chicken is coated, add the saffron and chili peppers. 

Add the olive oil and after it begins to sear, add the clarified butter. Cook for 20 minutes over medium heat. Don’t let it stick. Check from time to time and add water if necessary. 

Keep tagine covered while it’s cooking. After 20 minutes, add about 10 TBS water and simmer over medium-low heat for 45 minutes or until chicken is tender. The chicken should be nicely browned and the sauce thick.

These were the two side dishes we made–a Zalouk Salad with eggplant and tomato and a Taktuka Salad with tomato, red onion and blackened green chili. The hardest part was learning how to cut the tomato to make a perfect rose.

As our chicken continued to cook…

…we had mint tea. Preparing the tea is quite a process, but Mohammed and Aida taught us all the tricks. (Hint, you throw away the first pour).

After our tea break we were seated at a beautiful table in the riad (courtyard) of La Maison Arabe and our dinner was served! It was so delicious and then Aida surprised us with our favorite dessert–pastilla.

It was really a perfect day–and one you can re-create with just a few simple ingredients. Hope you’ll give it a try!

And more exciting news. I want to welcome my newest readers from Angola and Kenya. Thanks for joining my site and remember, you can read it first at Stu News.

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