MarocMama

eat well, travel often, dream big!

Tajine Tales: Chicken with Smen and Green Olives

It didn’t break!!  I’ve blogged a few times about my bad luck with cracking tajines.  The most recent tajine that I’ve gotten I didn’t take any chances with – doing lots of prepping before actually using it.  I very timidly decided to try it out, cooking a chicken tajine on very low temperatures and only slowly increasing the heat.  I felt like a new mom.  You know the mom I’m talking about – the one who spends the first 2 weeks with a newborn at home sneaking up to the crib and checking to make sure the baby is still breathing.  Gingerly placing their hand close to the babies mouth, making sure there were little air puffs…oh no you didn’t do that?  Never mind then…..Let’s just say I checked on it a lot.


It paid off because it didn’t break and the dish turned out great.  I was attempting to make Moroccan Chicken with Lemon and Eggs from Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking: Traditional and Modern Recipes to Savor and Share by Paula Wolfert (on page 94).  It was a tough recipe and in the end my broken leg won because I just couldn’t stand long enough to pull this off.  Half way through I gave up and just made a few changes.  I’ll give Paula’s recipe a shot when I’m healed.


The original recipe is tricky – I used almost all the same ingredients but left out the eggs and lemon juice.  It still turned out to be a great dish.  Today’s Food of the Sun entry is for poultry main dishes – so here we go!


Ingredients
4 chicken breasts
1 onion grated and excess water removed
2 tbsp crushed garlic
pinch of ground cinnamon
pinch of saffron threads
1 tsp ginger
salt and pepper
1/2 preserved lemon cleaned
2 tbsp fresh chopped cilantro
2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
handful of green olives
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp smen (you can make this without smen just add 1 more tbsp regular butter)


Directions


Clean the chicken and remove any excess fat.  In 1/2c warm water soak the saffron threads.  With a mortar and pestle pound the garlic with 1 tsp salt.  Add in the ginger, 1/2 tsp black pepper, cinnamon and 2 tbsp softened butter and smen.  Gradually stir in the hot saffron water.  *Note do this very slowly and with a little water at a time – too much water and it will not come together*  Mix with half of the grated onion and pour into the tajine.   Add in the chicken pieces skin side up on top.  Place the lemon, olives, parsley and cilantro on top of the tajine.


Cover the tajine and cook on low heat 275F in the oven.  Cook until the chicken is tender.  This will take at least an hour.  Avoid opening the tajine as much as possible, as opening it breaks the seal and the steam.  The meat should be tender.  Remove form oven at this point and transfer pieces to a plate.


In a medium bowl mix lemon, olives, cilantro and parsley.  Using a spoon remove any fat that has gathered at the top.  In a saute pan cook the chicken on medium high heat to achieve a crispy skin.


The resulting flavor is very unique, it’s unlike any tajine I’ve tasted.  Smen has a very distinct taste and is something you either love or hate.  I’ve never “loved” it but in this dish it works.  I’m really looking forward to trying this again and making changes in hopes it turns out like Paula’s!

I wanted to update everyone – I have not yet picked a winner for the tea set giveaway.  I’m going to give everyone one more week to register.  Deadline is February 11th!  I hope that you will link up your poultry main dishes to this post (you’ll get an entry in the giveaway!) There are other ways to win too.  Check out the ways to enter and make sure you leave a separate comment on this post for each entry.


Also I want to encourage you all to stop by and visit American Muslim Mom.  They are relaunching their site with a new design.  I was fortunate enough to get an early copy of Ponn Sabra’s ebook and was very happy to read and review.  It’s fantastic.  Stop by and check out the site, and make sure that you enter to win some of the items in the super big giveaway!  There are over $500 in prizes including my tajine spice trio!

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Eeeek!  The week got away from me and I didn’t get a chance to try Dorie’s recipe for b’stila.  So I guess that means I will just have to share my own!  I was really looking forward to this week since it is a Moroccan recipe. I’m guessing it would up in the cookbook due to the French connection to Morocco.  But this is a Moroccan dish – very unique to the country.  Traditionally it is made with pigeon but I’ve been unable to actually get one made of pigeon when I’m visiting.


 
This is favorite of mine.  My sister-in-laws always make sure to have this once or twice when I’m visiting.  There’s always tastes the best which I’m sure is part skill and part the right ingredients!  This is made with a dough called ourka (work-a) that is a bit thicker than filo dough.  You can sometimes pick  it up in Middle Eastern markets but if not filo dough works too. This recipe is a bit different than the traditional recipe (esp the chicken – I don’t like dark meat).

Filling -
2T veg oil (I use olive)
1 onion finely chopped
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
¼ C minced fresh flat leaf parsley
2 T minced fresh cilantro (I use a bit more)
¼ t ground turmeric
8 threads saffron, crushed
1 C water
1 t ground ginger
1¼ t ground cinnamon
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 t salt
½ t pepper
⅔ C powdered sugar

Almond mixture -
½ C whole blanched almonds (I used split almonds)
½ C powdered sugar
1 t ground cinnamon

12 sheets phyllo dough, thawed
1 C (2 sticks) butter, melted (I completely skip this and used spray butter stuff)
ground cinnamon and powdered sugar for garnish


Filling:
  • In a large saucepan over med heat, heat the oil. Saute’ onion until golden (6-8 min). Add chicken, parsley, cilantro, turmeric, saffron, water, ginger, & cinnamon. Cover & cook until the chicken is tender (20-25 min).
  • Transfer chicken to a bowl or plate and set aside to cool. Let the sauce continue to simmer in the pan and add the beaten eggs, salt, pepper, & sugar. Stir constantly until the eggs are scrambled. Shred the chicken & add it to the egg mixture. Set aside.
Almond mixture:
  • In a blender or food processor, coarsely grind the almonds and mix w/ sugar & cinnamon. Set aside.
  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  • Remove 12 sheets of phyllo from the pkg and re wrap the remaining phyllo in its original wrap. Refrigerate for future use.
  • Stack the 12 sheets on a work surface and cover w/ a damp towel. Spray a little butter on a pizza pan or baking sheet.
  • Layer 3 sheets of phyllo, lightly spraying each layer w/ butter.
  • Sprinkle the 3rd sheet evenly w/ ½ of the almond mixture. Layer & butter 3 more sheets. Spread the chicken mixture evenly over the top, leaving a 1½” border of phyllo.
  • Fold over the edges to partially cover the chicken mixture. Layer & butter 3 more sheets over the chicken, sprinkling the remaining almond mixture evenly over the top.
  • Layer & butter the last 3 sheets of phyllo over the almond mixture. Tuck the edges of the last 6 sheets under the b’stilla as you would a bed sheet (@ this point, I take another baking sheet and place it on top, then flip it over & seal the last 6 sheets of phyllo from bottom to top)

  • Bake the b’stilla until golden brown (20-25 min).
  • Place the powdered sugar in a fine-meshed sieve. Tap the sides of the sieve to cover the surface of the b’stilla lightly and; evenly w/ sugar.
  • Using thumb & forefinger, sprinkle ground cinnamon over the top (most people make patterns, I just lightly dust it). Serve immediately, before pastry becomes soggy.
This is the only picture I have of my bstila!  Another reason why I need to make it again so that I can document it better!


**It took me a long time to finally make this b/c I thought it would be a really daunting task. It’s not – it’s a lot of steps, but it’s really easy and didn’t take as long as I thought.
Note: These can be prepared in advance and frozen uncooked in aluminum foil. It will keep up to 2 months in the freezer. No need to thaw before baking, but bake for 10 min extra if frozen.
**This makes about a 10″ pie and easily serves 4 average plates.



I’m determined to make Dorie’s bstila for comparison but in the meantime check out some other posts here.


A few that I liked;
My Baking Heart
Frozen Plumb
French Whisk
eat.live.travel.write

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Food of the Sun: Chicken and Cannellini Beans

 
I’ve been reading so many cooking magazines and cookbooks lately that I haven’t even had time to make recipes from them!  I have been trying to incorporate more beans and fiber into our diet, as I am anemic and my husband has cholesterol issues.  This truly is a comfort dish.  It has the lemony flavors of the Mediterranean and the added flavor from the thyme.  Beans are a very popular dish in the Mediterranean and using them is a great way to stretch the dish.
 
Ingredients:
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 cup of dry cannellini beans or 1 can of cannellini beans
1 whole lemon cut in half
4 stems of thyme
1-2 potaotes
2 tsp crushed garlic
1 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp vegetable oil
 
 
Directions
 
In a large dutch oven add vegetable oil and butter and turn to medium high.  Next add the onions and garlic and allow to saute until softened.  Add the chicken pieces and brown all sides.  Clean the potatoes and cut the lemon in half, squeezing 1/2 into the pot.  Add the two halves of the lemon and the potaotes to the pot.
 



 
Add the remaining spices, herbs and salt and pepper, as well as the cannellini beans.  If using dried beans, soak ahead of time for 6-8 hours.
 

 
Add the chicken broth last.  Cook on medium heat for 45 minutes to an hour, for the broth to reduce. If using canned beans they will be soft.  If using dry beans the cooking time may need to be longer.  You will want to use more chicken broth to offset the increased cooking time.
 

 

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Chicken Tajine with Potatoes and Green Olives
Looking for a change from the Chicken, Olive and French Fry tajine?  Try using regular potatoes!  Saves some time in cooking and eliminate the frying for a little healthier option.  This is another of my children’s favorite meals!
Ingredients
1 lb of chicken
1/2 preserved lemon
1-2 potatoes quartered
1/2 onion chopped finely
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp black pepper
1 pinch of saffron
1/2 tsp tumeric
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp chopped Italian Parsley
1-2 handfuls of green or kalamata olives
Directions
In a pressure cooker add vegetable oil and onions.  Saute on medium high heat for 3-5 minutes until onions become translucent.  Add cumin, pepper, saffron, tumeric, parsley and ginger and stir into onion mixture.  Add pieces of chicken and stir so that they become covered with onion/spice mixture.  Add enough water to cover chicken 3/4 of the way.  Next add the potatoes and preserved lemon.  Cover tightly and cook on medium heat for 45 minutes.  Release steam and check.  Potatoes should be soft and chicken should be falling apart.  Keep cover off and add olives.  Reduce water to a medium thickness sauce.  Place chicken, olives and potatoes on a large serving bowl and pour sauce around it.  Eat with crusty bread!
Don’t forget the Food of the Sun blog carnival will be starting next week!  Get your entries ready!  

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One of my favorite ideas is Once a Month Cooking (check out Trish and her great recipes), not because I actually believe that I could cook a month’s worth of meals for my family.  I do like to prepare several meals that go into the freezer and I can pull out on nights that are especially busy or I just don’t feel like cooking.  (Yes there are nights that I don’t feel like cooking!)  One of the recipes I came across were chicken curry wraps.  I don’t like the flavor of curry and so I had to think of a way to make it into something that would be tasty.  I came up with Chicken b’stilla wraps.  All the flavor of a chicken b’stilla in a tortilla and ready to eat for lunch!  
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup of cooked chopped chicken (about 2 breasts)
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 cups of cooked rice or vermicelli
  • 1 cup of almonds – chopped or whole
  • 1/2 cup of raisins
  • 1 tsp each salt and white pepper
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/2 c water
  • 4-6 tortillas or another flat bread such as lavash
 
Directions
In a saute pan add the vegetable oil and chopped onions.  
Saute 3-5 minutes until onions are translucent.
Add the spices and herbs and water.  
Add the remaining ingredients and cook until raisins are re-hydrated.  
Remove from the heat and allow to cool.  
Cook the rice or vermicelli in another pan and stir in 1 tbsp butter and a pinch of crushed saffron threads if desired.
Place to the side.  
To make wraps, add 1-2 tbsp of filling and 1-2 tbsp of rice/noodles to a wrap and wrap up like a burrito.  
These can be eaten right away or wrapped in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil and frozen.  
I place them into a 1 gallon plastic bag in my freezer, then grab one on my way to work in the morning.  
By lunch they are thawed and I pop in the microwave wrapped in a paper towel for 1 minute to heat up.
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Having a very tame food background has made new eating experiences very eye opening for me.  Growing up we ate traditional Midwestern fare.  Lots of meat and potatoes.  Spaghetti, casseroles, and the like.  As I traveled and experienced more of regional world cuisine I couldn’t get enough.  One of the most surprising “likes” for me was Indian food.  I guess I always thought it would be too spicy.  Certainly some items have a kick but overall I really enjoy the mixture of flavors and spices.  The intricacy of layers of flavor.  It’s also not as difficult to cook as some people think.  Even my kids gobble up chicken tikka masala!



I use a variation of Bobby Flay’s Chicken Tikka Masala.


Ingredients:
2 cups whole milk Greek yogurt (Fage is great)
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground corriander
2 tsp ground tumeric
1 tsp ground cardamom
2 tsp cayenne powder
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 tbsp ginger powder
1 med onion chopped finely
3 large tomatoes inside grated or 1 lg can crushed tomato will work
1 tbsp tomato paste
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cubed
salt
1/4 c unsalted butter
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Directions
Mix together half the yogurt, spices, garlic and ginger in a bowl. Add the chicken and turn to coat in the mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours.  I’ve made this with only marinating for an hour and it’s still good!  
In a heavy bottom pan, add 1/4 c of butter, 1 tbsp vegetable oil and the onions.  Allow to saute 5-8 minutes on medium.  Add the tomato paste and tomato liquid.  Add the chicken and marinade.  Cook on medium heat until the chicken is cooked through and tender.  Add the remaining yogurt and mix through.  

Looking for more Chicken Tikka recipes?
Chicken Tikka Masala

Watch for the Cumin Cauliflower side dish I serve with this in an upcoming post.

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Take-Out Chicken from your Kitchen!

When you have a 6 year old and a 3 year old, one item that’s a staple in their diet is chicken nuggets.  It’s also safe to say that as a parent you’re pretty tired of the same old chicken nuggets.  I am there.  I’ve been there.  I have managed to find a few different ways to make chicken nuggets that appeal to both the kids and my husband and I.  Because really who wants to be cooking two dinners? 

This recipe was born out of a few different recipes I had looked at and was a true winner.  You can serve it as a “traditional” chicken nugget with some dipping sauce, or you can serve it a little more elegant with a pilaf and vegetables.  I paired mine with the Arabic Rice Pilaf

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of chicken breast tenderloin (you can also cut chicken breasts into strips/pieces)
  • 1/2 c soy sauce
  • 16 oz pineapple juice
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp crushed garlic
  • 1/4 c vegetable oil
  • 1/4c toasted sesame seeds

Directions:
Mix soy sauce, vegetable oil, honey, garlic and pineapple juice together in a large bowl.  Clean chicken and place in marinade.  Allow to soak for at least one hour, however the longer you can leave it the better.  Preheat the oven to 350F and line a cookie sheet with tinfoil.  Layout the chicken and drizzle with some of the remaining marinade.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Bake until cooked through, about 20 minutes.  Serve in strips or cut into chunks.  


 

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I find myself using my slow cooker and more and more these days.  This recipe was a twist on a simple recipe I found in a slow cooker cookbook.  I made it last week when we were going out of town for the day and expecting dinner that evening.  It turned out great and made that evening super fast and easy!


Ingredients:
1 1/2 lbs of chicken (I use bone in)
1 lemon sliced thinly
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp each salt and pepper
2 tsp crushed garlic
1/2-3/4 cup chicken stock
3/4 cup olives (kalamata – you can use more or less depending on your preference)


Directions:
Wash and clean the chicken and sprinkle each piece with salt and pepper.  In a large skillet add the vegetable oil and lightly brown each of the chicken.  After browning add to the slow cooker.  Add the garlic and chicken stock.  Place the layers of lemon on top of and between the pieces of chicken.  Spread the olives around the slow cooker.  Cook on low for 4-6 hours.  Mine was on for over 8 hours and was still very moist.  If you’re planning to leave it this long you may want to add a little more liquid.  Serve with orzo pasta on the side.





I also made a very quick Greek Salad to go with the the chicken.  Simply chop up lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers, add some feta and an olive oil vinegarette!  


Overall a very simple and healthy meal that takes little time and clean-up!


P.S.  Stop over and visit A Chocolate Bouquet for a special interview with me!


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