So I was in NYC visiting friends a few weeks ago and I got a chance to go to one of my favourite places to eat there, a fantastic Moroccan restaurant called Cafe Mogador. On their menu there is a dish called Chicken Tajine with Chermoula sauce that is a piece of culinary perfection. Numerous times during my meal I had a strong urge to face-plant myself into my plate, yes that’s how good it was! This time when I was enjoying the dish I promised myself to try and make it when I get back, which brings us to last night. I finally decided to give it a go and see how close I can get to Café Mogador’s magic. Yes I am ware, delusions of gastronomic grandeur! The secret to the dish’s moist, tender and perfectly seasoned chicken are two things. First, cooking it in a Tajine. Second and even more important, the delicious Chermoula sauce! Tajine is special earthenware pot that is used in Morocco and Tunisia, however it is not an absolute requirement for this dish. You can do a perfectly good job in a regular pot, which is what I used. To make the Chermoula you are going to need the following.
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
- Juice of 1 to 1 ½ lemons
- 2 onions chopped
- 1tbsp sweet or smoked paprika
- 1tbsp ground cumin
- 1 -2 bird’s eye or cayenne or green chili pepper (depending on your own preference)
- 1 cup of chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 cup of chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
- ½ cup of olive oil
- 2 bay leaves
- 1tsp of ginger
- 1tsp of turmeric
Rest of the ingredients:
- 4-6 chicken thighs (depending on serving size)
- 5-10 fingerling potatoes – peeled
- ½ cup of pitted green olives
- 2 cups of reduced salt chicken stock
- 1 tomato chopped (optional)
- Pinch of saffron – dissolved in a little warm water
Process all the marinade ingredients in a food processor until finally chopped and almost a paste like consistency is formed. Wash and dry chicken, remove excess fat and leave in chermoula marinate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight. You don’t really want to let it marinade longer than overnight since the acid and salt in the marinade can chemically cook the chicken, and nobody is into chicken ceviche.
After marinating, pour the entire mixture (chicken & chermoula) into your pot, add tomatoes (if using any), add potatoes, pour in the chicken stock, pour in saffron mixture, put on the lid and put the stove on a medium heat and bring to boil. When it gets to a boil reduce heat and let it simmer for 40-50 minutes (I left the little breathing hole on the pot lid open to also slightly reduce and thicken the liquid while simmering. Now take the lid off add the olives and cook for another 10-15 until the liquid is reduced to a desired consistency, the reason I don’t add the olives earlier is because I don’t want to them to become too mushy, but that is a personal preference. It is important to taste during this process; if the chermoula is reduced too much the flavour can get very concentrated, making your food too salty.
Empty out the pot into a dish and serve your chicken chermoula with either rice or couscous.