Moroccan Chicken and Onion Tagine (Djej Besla)

You know me, I find inspiration with foods from other cultures. Chicken and Onion Tagine or Djej Besla has its root from Morocco. I was first introduced to this dish by a friend years ago and I was completely blown away by the spices, acid and brightness from the dish. I had dinner with this friend last week and the inspiration to create that dish beckoned again.

I’ve made this dish many times since having it years ago and while I don’t have a Tagine, a Dutch oven works perfect! The colors in this dish are bright and very spring-like, which seems appropriate!

Ingredients

  • 6 chicken thighs
  • 6 cloves garlic, smashed and turned into a paste using the flat side of your knife
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • Olive oil
  • 1 tsp saffron threads, chopped
  • 3-4 small yellow onions, cut into wedges
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced crosswise, seeds removed
  • 1 cup pitted green olives, roughly chopped or smashed
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • 1 cup of cilantro, finely chopped for garnishing
  • Cooked white rice, for serving

Instructions

1. Make the marinade for the chicken: Grab a large meat safe bowl and add 3TBS of olive oil to the garlic, cumin, paprika, turmeric and some sea salt and whisk together. Now add your chicken thighs and coat evenly. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight.

2. Heat your oven to 375 degrees and heat olive oil in a 6- or 8-qt. Dutch oven or large tagine over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add your chicken thighs and cook until golden brown on both sides. This should take about 15 minutes. Once the chicken is done, transfer to a plate.

3. Now add the saffron and onions to the pot and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until the onions are soft, ~10 minutes.

4. Add the lemon slices and stir the pot to use the acid from the lemon to remove the fond from the bottom of the pot. The fond is those tasty little chicken and garlic morsels you lost during cooking.

5. Return the chicken to pot along with 1 cup water.

6. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium-low and cook covered in your oven, until the chicken is cooked through, ~30-45 minutes. Get ready for the amazing Moroccan amoras that will fill your kitchen.

7. Remove from the heat and add your olives and cilantro to the chicken.

8. Serve over rice with a bit more cilantro and enjoy!


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