Onions stew until soft and sweet in this satisfying one-pot chicken dish flavored with saffron, turmeric, lemon, and olives. This recipe first appeared in our November 2011 issue along with Dana Bowen's story Roots of Flavor.
Chicken and Onion Tagine (Djej Besla)
Onions stew until soft and sweet in this satisfying one-pot chicken dish flavored with saffron, turmeric, lemon, and olives.
1 tbsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 tsp. cumin seeds, crushed
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. ground turmeric
5 tbsp. olive oil
4 skinless bone-in chicken thighs
4 skinless bone-in chicken drumsticks
1 tsp. crushed saffron threads
4 medium yellow onions, cut into 12 wedges each
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 lemon, thinly sliced crosswise, seeds removed
1 1⁄4 cups pitted green olives
1⁄3 cup finely chopped cilantro
Cooked white rice, for serving
Make a spice paste: Using the flat side of your knife, chop and mash salt and garlic together on a cutting board into a smooth paste; transfer paste to a large bowl and stir in cumin, paprika, and turmeric. Stir in 3 tbsp. oil, and then add chicken thighs and drumsticks; toss until evenly coated. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, and marinate in the refrigerator for 4 hours.
Heat remaining oil in an 8-qt. Dutch oven or large tagine over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add chicken pieces, and cook, turning once, until golden brown on both sides, about 10 minutes; transfer to a plate and set aside. Add saffron and onions to pot, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 15 minutes. Return chicken to pot along with lemon slices and 1 cup water, and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, covered, until chicken is cooked through, about 40 minutes. Remove from heat, and scatter olives and cilantro over chicken; serve with rice.