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Chicken Tagine with Cracked Green Olives and Preserved Lemon

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The scents and flavors in this dish are really irresistible. The earthy perfume of saffron, piquant lemon, plus ginger and turmeric, which you can use fresh or dry, also provide the dish with their wonderful flavors.

I had fresh ginger on hand, but no fresh turmeric. Turmeric root has been available at Central Market. Find preserved (or pickled) lemons and jars of cracked green olives at an international grocery, such as Ali Baba International Food Market at 9307 Wurzbach Road.


  • You can leave the pits in the cracked olives or take them out. If you leave them in, be sure to tell your guests!
  • I wanted another vegetable in the tagine, too, so I added peeled and quartered small turnips, which worked well.
  • This recipe wants you to marinate the chicken thighs for 8-24 hours. So, plan ahead!
  • The original recipe calls for chicken thighs with the bones in, but boneless work fine, too.
Chicken Tagine with Cracked Green Olives and Preserved Lemon Tagine

Chicken Tagine with Cracked Green Olives and Preserved Lemon Tagine

Chicken Tagine with Cracked Green Olives and Preserved Lemon

1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
2 large yellow onions, chopped
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, plus another 1/4 cup or so for garnish
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
4 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger or 1 to 1 1/2-inches fresh gingerroot, peeled, sliced and minced
1/2 teaspoon turmeric, or 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoon minced peeled fresh turmeric
1 teaspoon salt, more for seasoning at end of cooking, as needed
2 large cloves garlic, mashed and minced
6 tablespoons olive oil (or, as needed)
8 chicken thighs (either skin and bone-in or boneless, skinless will work)
5 small turnips, peeled and cut into quarters
2 preserved lemons, sliced thin
1 fresh lemon, peel on and sliced (discard tips)
1/2 – 1 cup chicken broth
1 1/2 cups cracked green olives

In a small bowl, soak the saffron in 2 tablespoons of water for 10 minutes. In a food processor combine the onion, 1/2 cup cilantro, 1/2 cup parsley and the lemon juice. Add the cumin, coriander, ginger, turmeric and the saffron along with the soaking water. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and process to a pulpy purée. Transfer purée to a large plastic bag or a steel or glass bowl. Add the garlic and 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the chicken pieces. Refrigerate for 8-24 hours.

After the chicken has been marinated, in a large, heavy pot warm 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. When oil is hot, remove chicken pieces from the marinade (reserve the marinade) put them in the pan (you’ll probably need to do this in two batches). Sear them on both sides. Transfer to a plate. Add the rest of the chicken to the pot and sear it as well and set on the plate when they are browned.

Pour the broth into the pan and deglaze, scraping up any bits of meat. Add the reserved marinade and add to it the chicken and any juices from the plate. Add the chopped turnips as well and stir down into the cooking liquid. Bring the heat to medium low and simmer until the chicken is opaque throughout and the turnips tender. Taste to see if you need to add more salt.

If you are using the tagine pot, you can put it on the stove (don’t use a ceramic glazed dish for this purpose). Also, don’t turn the heat up high. You can cover the pot and let it simmer on the stove, or put in a 350 degree oven (no hotter) and let it cook until it is done — as much as an hour. You want very tender chicken.

When the stew has started to cook, simmer the olives in a saucepan of boiling water for about 5 minutes. Drain and add to the tagine. In another sauce or saute pan, heat the rest of the olive oil. Sear the lemon slices (fresh and preserved) in the hot oil, turn and sear and brown the other sides. The browned lemon looks good in the dish. Scatter the lemons and the cilantro and parsley reserved for garnish over the stew when it is done.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Adapted from and Kate McMillan’s “One Pot of the Day”



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