Tag: tagine

A taste of Morocco

Saturday, January 19th, 2008 | All Things, Eats, Friends

This weekend’s North African pot luck may have been the most challenging yet, requiring research for new recipes and the deployment of special equipment. An excellent opportunity to break out the clay tagine I received for Christmas from SC a while back. SYB, for his part, selected the dinner theme to show off his fancy new Le Creuset version. (Incidentally, Amazon sells a silicone tagine for $20. I adore my Silpats, but I am skeptical of the suitability of silicone for this particular purpose.)


So this is what I learned in my preparations for Saturday night: a “tagine” refers to both a shallow, rimmed earthenware cooking dish with a tight-fitting conical lid, and to the food cooked within. The distinctive shape of the tagine creates a closed convection system, circulating moisture and heat. Steam condenses at the top of the lid – the farthest point from the heat source – and drips back into the dish, which allows the tagine’s contents to be braised over a long period of time without requiring additional liquid. I’ve seen tagines used in the oven, but they are intended for use on the stove top, or traditionally over a charcoal brazier.

The main characteristic of a Moroccan meat tagine is a full-bodied, highly seasoned sauce — not spicy hot, though, which is more characteristic of Tunisian cuisine. I located a recipe for Chicken Tagine with Apricots and Almonds and set to work in my kitchen, but due the size of my dish, I ended up making two batches: one in the tagine, the other in my trusty dutch oven. Curiously, they didn’t turn out looking or tasting noticeably different.

My results bore out Cooks Illustrated’s May 2006 look at tagines in an “Equipment Corner” article titled “Do you really need a tagine?” The editors concluded “no” — that for the most part, a quality dutch oven will do the same job at least as well.

In my Moroccan recipe hunt, I came across a New York Times piece in which Zarela Martínez (executive chef and owner of midtown Mexican restaurant Zarela) mentioned a chicken, preserved lemons and green olives tagine, accompanied by eggplant grilled with a pomegranate-molasses vinaigrette — a flavor combination which sounded intriguing and delicious. “Somehow eating that combination of the preserved lemon and the olive, which is salty, and the slightly sweet eggplant on the side with the pomegranate molasses, is just heaven. Whenever I’m trying to seduce someone, let’s say, that’s exactly the meal that I’ll make.

Hmm, interesting. So just in case: here’s that tagine recipe, adapted from Paula Wolfert‘s 1973 classic cookbook, Couscous and Other Good Foods from Morocco.

And because it’s still a dream of mine: 36 hours in Marrakesh. One day.

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