I am absolutely DYING to go to Morocco. I want to see both Casablanca and Marrakech, in particular. I am fascinated by their culture. I’ve seen tons of pictures of both those cities, and the bright colors and intricate mosaics always mesmerize me. I want to see the camels and even the snake charmers. I’m dying to visit the spice markets and taste their cuisine. I find their food to be unique and utterly delicious. It’s so fragrant and flavorful, and I love any cuisine that applauds heavy-handedness with the spice cabinet. (Anyone who’s seen my spice cabinet is snickering right about now. It’s fine, I stand by it.)
So far I have not been able to get myself to Morocco, but I hope to one day sooner rather than later. In the meantime, I’ll just keep cooking Moroccan food in my little kitchen. Like this wonderful tagine meal. A tagine is a word both describing a cooking vessel and a meal made in that vessel. You’ve probably seen pictures of tagines. They are made of clay, usually painted bright or earthy colors. They have a round base, probably 12 inches or so, with a cone-shaped lid. I don’t have one, and it’s fine to make tagine dishes in your Dutch oven. A tagine meal is generally a one-pot stew. Sometimes it’s made with chicken, sometimes with lamb, and often vegetarian. This one in particular used a whole chicken and some merguez. Merguez is a lamb sausage made with Moroccan spices, and it’s insanely tasty. It can be hard to find in the States, but the company D’Artagnan makes it. They are based in Newark, New Jersey, but they ship, so you can order some online if you can’t find it at your grocery store. I am very lucky because my grocer actually carries a lot of their products in the packaged meat case, so I found a package of merguez there. In America we generally serve our stews over rice or potatoes; Moroccans serve their tagines over couscous, so that’s what I did too.
There are a couple of possibly unfamiliar ingredients in this dish: preserved lemon and harissa. Preserved lemons are sold in jars at international grocers. Look for them on the international aisle, but if you can’t find one I’ve provided a substitution. Harissa is a north African condiment that is used there the way Americans use ketchup. It’s spicy! A little goes a long way. You can omit it if you want. Look for it on the international aisle in your grocery store, most have it. Enjoy!
Source: Ted Allen, “In My Kitchen”
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp fennel seed
1/4 tsp cayenne
2 tsp kosher salt
1 (3 pound) chicken, cut into 10 pieces (breasts halved crosswise), skin removed
2 tbs EVOO
10 oz. to 1 lb. merguez sausage, cut into 2 inch pieces
1/4 cup plus 1 tbs chopped cilantro
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 fennel bulb, tops removed, cored and chopped
2 tbs chopped preserved lemon, or grated zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 tbs chopped, peeled, fresh ginger
1 tbs chopped garlic
1/4 cup dried apricots or currants
1 (15 oz.) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced thin
1 medium tomato, diced
1/2 orange bell pepper, cored, seeded, chopped
1/2 tsp harissa
2 tbs fresh lemon juice
In a small bowl, mix together the cumin, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, fennel seed, cayenne, and salt. Rub 2 teaspoons of the spice blend onto both sides of the chicken pieces.
Heat the olive oil in a tagine or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, until just starting to smoke. Add the chicken and merguez and brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. You’ll probably have to do this in batches.
Reduce the heat to medium-low or lower. Cover the chicken and sausage evenly with 1/4 cup cilantro, onion, fennel, preserved lemon, ginger and garlic. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the spice blend, cover, and cook 15 minutes.
Add the apricots, chickpeas, and zucchini, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the spice blend, cover, and cook another 15 minutes.
Add the diced tomato and bell pepper. Mix the harissa with the lemon juice; add it to the pot along with any remaining spice blend. If your dish hasn’t produced a little broth and the onions aren’t softened, raise the hit a little bit. Cover and cook another 15 minutes.
Sprinkle the remaining cilantro over top, and serve over couscous.