Lemony Chicken Tagine

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How many chefs do you know who are also professors of mathematics and computer science at the same time? The mind boggles at the thought. But Hari Pulapaka is such a man. By day he teaches at Stetson University. By night he heads the kitchen at Cress restaurant.  (Both in DeLand, Florida.) And somewhere in the middle he finds time to answer questions from journalists! Chatting with Hari about the one dish he thinks tastes just as good next day as it did first out of the oven, Hari offered this tagine. Lemony with lots of golden, aromatic spices, capers, olives and rich roast chicken, this tagine was one Hari created after he first tasted Moroccan food.

The moment happened 10 years ago, before Hari attended culinary school or even remotely considered being a professional chef. “I was at some friends’ house after a spirited round of golf. They made the tagine of chicken that inspired this dish. I remember going through their supply of bread as I sopped up all the lemony goodness.” says Hari. “I also remember going back the next day and cleaning out the leftovers!” he laughs. “I didn’t think the dish could taste any better than it tasted when I first tried it, but somehow, it tasted even better the next day.”

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Lemony Chicken Tagine Ingredients

 

  • 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • 4 large chicken backs (for the stock)
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled, sliced into slivers (save garlic skins for the stock)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced (save the ginger peels for the stock)
  • 2 lemons, seeded, cut into wedges
  • 1 large Spanish onion, peeled, thinly sliced (save the onion peels and trim for the stock)
  • 1/2 cup capers
  • 1 cup pitted briny green olives, halved
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 cardamom pods (bruise them slightly)
  • 1 tsp saffron threads
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbsp round cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp finely minced preserved lemons
  • 1 cup extra virgin oilve oil
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup chopped Italian (flat leaf) parsley (garnish) (Note: save the parsley stems for the stock)
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves (garnish) (Note: save the cilantro stems for the stock.)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Instructions

  1. Place the chicken backs, one of the bay leaves, onion peels, garlic peels, ginger skin one of the cinnamon sticks’, and the parsley and cilantro stems in a stock pot with enough water to cover everything in the pot. Heat to boiling; lower heat. Simmer for 2 hours.
  2. While the chicken stock is being made, prepare all of the over mis en place (i.e. peel and chop everything; remove the seeds from the lemons.) Prepare a marinade for the chicken with 1/2 of the olive oil, all of the garlic, ginger, lemon juice from the lemon wedges, salt and pepper. Marinate the chicken while the stock simmers.
  3. Preheat oven to 325F. In a dutch oven or shallow, ovenable/non-reactive pot, heat the remaining olive oil on medium heat and sear the chicken in stages so that they are golden brown. Set aside. In the same oil, saute the onions until translucent. Add the marinade. plus preserved lemons, capers and ground spices. Stir for a minute or so. Add the chicken back to the pot and deglaze with enough chicken stock to barely cover the chicken pieces. Add the saffon threads. Add the whole spices and test for seasoning. Depending on how briny the olives and capers are, you may or may not need more salt or pepper.
  4. Cover tightly and bake in the oven for 40 to 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow the tagine to rest for about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and cilantro. Serve with a garbanzo bean salad and some crusty baguettes.

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