Djaj bil Khizu (Chicken Tagine with Carrots)

In Recipies on November 12, 2012 at 9:47 am

We’re continuing our easy-chair tour of Moroccan tagines with a djaj (chicken) tagine prepared with carrots. Carrots are regarded as aphrodisiacs in many Arab cultures and this dish uses an abundant amount of them.

Aphrodisiac properties aside, it’s a shame so many people enjoy carrots only as a side dish. This ancient root vegetable packs a sweet wallop when it is fully cooked (The Celtic word for carrot means, “honey underground”.) and today’s featured dish pairs well-cooked carrots with generous amounts of lemon juice to make a Moroccan sweet and sour chicken meal. This tagine can be prepared in just over an hour and it makes a great Shabbat or other special occasion main course.

Carrots are related to coriander and this recipe adds generous amounts of ground coriander and cilantro leaves for flavorings. Garlic and fresh, minced parsley add a bit of pungency and the entire dish gets a generous amount of black pepper.

The result is luxurious and gastronomically stunning.

I (again) omitted traditional saffron from my version. If you adore saffron, by all means, add it in a generous pinch. It will lend this tagine a beautiful hue.

I also used cut up chicken quarters instead of a whole chicken. Due to expected high feed prices and higher energy costs, chicken and egg producers are culling their flocks and the price of fresh chicken has spiraled. I love the meat on chicken legs and thighs and, when the skin is removed, their fat content is brought down dramatically. Still, poultry dark meat contains up to 30 to 50 percent more fat than while meat. This is important when considering how much olive oil to use in cooking. If you prepare these dishes with (skinned) dark meat, cut the olive oil portions in tagines by about 40%. If you prepare it with all white meat, double the olive oil. For a whole chicken, use the recipe amount.

Just a reminder: You don’t need a tagine vessel to make great tagine. A large, deep skillet (with cover) or a Dutch oven works great. If you want to use a tagine vessel, make sure it as suitable for stovetop use. Many glazed tagines are not.

Here’s what you’ll need:

2.5 lb fresh chicken (jointed, skinned)

1 large white onion, finely minced

3 – 4 cloves garlic, finely minced

2 ½ C water

A generous handful chopped flat-leaf parsley

A generous handful of chopped cilantro

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground black pepper

juice of one lemon (about ¼ C)

1 lb fresh carrots cut into thick rounds

2 TBS olive oil

pinch kosher salt

In a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven, nest the chicken pieces together. Season with the kosher salt. Sprinkle in the onion, garlic, black pepper, and the spices. Pour the water over everything and gently stir the ingredients to combine. Heat over medium-high heat until boiling. Drizzle the olive oil over the exposed chicken. Cover and reduce heat slightly and cook for thirty minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the cilantro and parsley, reserving about a tablespoon (each) for garnish. Stir in the lemon juice and carrots. Use tongs to gently turn the chicken. Cook, uncovered for fifteen minutes. When the chicken is quite fragile and the carrots are fork-tender, remove it and the carrots to a large platter or bowl and set them aside. Reduce the cooking liquid until it is quite thick. Return the chicken and carrots to the cooking vessel and toss to coat with the rich and syrupy sauce. Garnish with the remaining parsley and cilantro. Serve with large pita rounds.


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