Truth be told, there are plenty of classic dishes in Clay Pot Cooking, but I was more intrigued by the exotic. I found a pair of recipes that used familiar ingredients in unusual ways, and my thoughts immediately turned to the off-dry Roses of the Loire as the perfect compliment. What a fun, and festive feast for welcoming spring! Whenever that might be. Heck it would be a treat right now as we dig out of yet another east coast blizzard!
Paula WolfertPaula Wolfert is widely acknowledged as one of the premier food writers in America and the “queen of Mediterranean cooking.” She writes a quarterly column in Food & Wine, and is the author of seven cookbooks, several of which have remained in print for upwards of 30 years.
Buy the book: Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking: Traditional and Modern Recipes to Savor and Share
Paula Wolfert's Moroccan Chicken Tagine with Sweet Onions and RaisinsClick here to download a printable PDF file of this recipe. SERVES 4 TO 6
Unlike Western stews, just a few Moroccan tagines call for an initial intense sautéing. If browning is required, it is usually done in a hot oven, under a clay dish filled with hot coals, or under a broiler after the meat or chicken is simmered to perfection on top of the stove.
In my travels through southern Morocco I noticed that many of the tagine cooking pots were unglazed and made of a clay that shimmered due to high mica content. Such tagines, I was told, were particularly strong and could take direct flame heat. This corresponded to my observation that it is in southern Morocco that one finds tagine recipes, such as this one, that call for early browning. You can find an unglazed and mica rich tagine from the Moroccan Souss region at www.tagines.com. Here I brown the chicken legs and thighs in the tagine and at the same time slowly cook the sauce in a separate casserole to develop a rich intensity of flavor and color. After this stage, chicken and sauce are combined and then baked to glaze the onion topping.
|Preferred Clay Pots:
|A 3-quart glazed or unglazed earthenware or flameware saucepan or casserole with a tight-fitting lid
|A 10- to 12-inch flameware tagine or Spanish cazuela
|If using an electric or ceramic stovetop, be sure to use a heat diffuser with the clay pots.
2 pounds large onions, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons unsalted butt er
Pinch of saff ron threads
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup raisins
2 tablespoons honey
1. Separate the chicken legs at the joint into thighs and drumsticks. Trim off any excess fat. Let come to room temperature. Meanwhile, soak the saffron in 1/2 cup warm water for 15 minutes.
2. Place the onions, 1 tablespoon of the butter, the saffron and soaking water, cinnamon, ginger, sugar, and 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper in the 3-quart earthenware casserole. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes. (If the onions begin to brown too quickly, reduce the heat to low.)
3. Remove the cover. Add the raisins, raise the heat to medium, and continue cooking, uncovered, until the onions are soft and glazed and the sauce is thickened and reduced to 2 cups, about 45 minutes longer.
4. Put 1 tablespoon of the butter in the tagine. Add the chicken and set over medium-low heat. Cook slowly until the butter sizzles and the chicken skin begins to release some fat. Raise the heat to medium and continue to brown the chicken, moving it around in the tagine to keep it from sticking, but always keeping it on the skin side, for 30 minutes. From time to time, tilt the tagine and spoon off excess fat. Note that you will have to adjust the heat to keep the chicken browning slowly and consistently. Use a wooden or silicone spatula to scrape up bits and pieces that attach to the bottom of the tagine.
5. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Reduce the heat under the tagine to medium-low, turn the chicken pieces over, and cook for 15 minutes longer. Turn over again and brush the skin side of the chicken with the honey.
6. Transfer the tagine to the oven and bake, uncovered, until the chicken is glazed, about 10 minutes.
7. Spread the onion sauce over the chicken, dot with the remaining butter, and bake until the onions turn golden brown, about 5 minutes.