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Chicken Tagine II (Djaj Emshmel) (M, TNT)
Source: from a cookbook I compiled for my friends, most of whom have also spent considerable time in Morocco
Serves: 12

2 to 3 chickens, whole, quartered or cut into pieces, with their livers
6 cloves garlic, peeled
Kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4 cup salad oil
2-1/2 cups grated onions, drained (best texture if grated on a four-sided hand grater, but a food processor can be used instead)
1/4 teaspoon pulverized saffron (mix with turmeric if you wish)
1/2 cup mixed chopped fresh coriander and parsley
1-1/2 cups ripe green brown olives such as Royal Victorias (see note)
2 Preserved Lemons (click here for recipe)
2 to 3 fresh lemons

General recipe for Preparing Poultry
This preparation, which can be used to boost flavor in many poultry recipes, is for non-stuffed poultry only.

Wash the chickens in salted water and drain. Pound 4 of the garlic cloves and 2 tablespoons of salt into a paste. Run the paste into the flesh of the poultry, at the same time pulling out excess fat from under the skin and from the neck and rump ends. Don't forget to treat the livers as well. Pull out the thin transparent membrane from under the skin of the breast.

Rinse the poultry well under running water until it no longer smells of garlic. (The garlic is used to rid the poultry of any bitterness that might spoil the sauce; it also acts to bring out the chicken's flavor, much like MSG.) Drain the poultry well.

If you suspect that your poultry is tasteless because of "scientific breeding," rub it with the spices to be used in the recipe, a little oil, cover, and marinate it in the refrigerator overnight. If you do this, you may need to adjust the spicing of the sauce at the end. Don't forget to include the livers.

The Tagine:
The day before, using 4 cloves of the garlic and two tablespoons of salt, prepare the chickens as directed above, then marinate chickens and livers in one teaspoon salt with the remaining cloves of garlic, sliced thin, the spices (not the herbs) and the oil.

The next day, place the chickens, livers, and marinade in a casserole (or pot).

[Archivist's Note: for kashruth, the livers must be broiled before adding to the pot]

Add 1/2 cup grated onion, the saffron, other herbs, and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer 30 minutes, turning the chickens often in the sauce.

In the meantime prepare the olives.

If you are using cracked green olives you'll probably need to treat them to remove the bitterness. To do so, put them in a pot, cover with cold water, bring to a boil and drain. Taste. If they're still bitter, repeat the process until the olives are no longer bitter. Set aside.

Remove the chicken livers from the casserole and mash them fine. Return to the casserole with the remaining grated, drained onions. This will add a good deal of heft to the sauce. Add water, if necessary.

Continue cooking 20 minutes, partially covered.

Rinse and quarter the preserved lemons, discarding the pulp if desired (I don't). Add the preserved lemons and olives to the sauce when the chicken is very tender and the flesh falls from the bones. Continue cooking for 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 two fresh lemons to the sauce in the pan. Add more salt (and more lemon juice, if desired) to taste. Pour the sauce over the chickens and serve at once.

This is can be eaten communal-style, piled up in a single bowl in the middle of the table, or it maybe divided up into individual bowls. In either case, the ideal accompaniment is Moroccan bread but making bread is an awful lot of work, even for a dish this special. Whole wheat or regular pita (pocketed is slightly better than unpocketed), whole wheat baguettes or Italian bread or sourdough bread make acceptable substitutes.

Poster's Notes:
This is an extravagant dish that requires both forethought and advanced hunting and gathering to get the best ingredients.

Most important; the olives, instead of the Royal Victorias recommended in the recipe, I use the dulci (sweet) olives. These do not need to be boiled before using since they are not at all bitter. They are, however, $8 or so a pound. The next best olives would be the cracked green olives. They are bitter and will need to be treated. Treatment is incorporated in the recipe. Actually any good reddish purple olive will do.

Posted by Laurie Sarney

Nutritional Info Per Serving: N/A