Chef Dina

Now available for Bay Area full service catering in conjunction with "A Fork Full of Earth" organic catering, intimate dinner parties and weekly meal preparation.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Preserving lemons and Moroccan Tagine

I just went to visit my aunt in San Diego and assaulted her orange and meyer lemon trees...brought back a big ol' box of each. Time to get to preserving. I LOVE preserved lemons. I mainly use them nowadays to make chicken tagine, the signature dish of Morocco, here for our guests. I found a beautiful clay pot at the thrift store that I use in lieu of a traditional tagine so I can make large batches (you can also use your enameled cast iron pot). These lemons have tons of uses, tho. I love them chopped up in a pasta salad with chickpeas, mint, garlic and parsley, in gremolata, tossed in salads and soups, chopped up fine and served with vanilla ice cream, mashed up in some butter with herbs and slathered on baked fish or chicken. Possibilities are endless...

easy as 1, 2, 3...

1. Quarter your lemons, but don't cut all the way through. basically make a big X in them from top to bottom, stopping before you cut all the way through (If you do, it doesn't matter). Squeeze them lightly over a bowl or measuring cup.

2. Fill them generously with kosher salt (don't use table salt) and put them in a quart jar. press them down firmly into the jar so they release even more of their juices. Put some more salt on top and cover completely with lemon juice (you may need extra juice)

3. Shove some bay leaf, cinnamon stick, and peppercorns or red chilies in the jar if you wish (totally optional) and seal the jar. Leave the jar on the counter and wait a month.

*you can poke at them and tease them around a little bit, push them around the second day so that they release more juices. Flip the jar upside down and back again.

fish them out as you need them, rinse them off, remove the pulp and white pith and finely chop the rind.


I have used a variety of spice mixtures for the chicken, and all come out equally delicious. The major players are: turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, ginger
You can certainly play around and alter the proportions to your tasty buds. It really doesn't need to be an exact recipe. However, if you are one of those exact recipe liking people, I have 2 for you to try out. If you can get your hands on some good quality Argan oil for cooking, it is a wonderful and traditional addition to the recipe.

Spice mix 1:
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp ground ginger
pinch of saffron
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 cinnamon stick or 1 tsp ground
1 tsp coriander

Spice mix 2 (ras el hanout):
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cardamon
2 tsp ground mace
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp each black, white and cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground anise seed
1/4 tsp ground clove

p.s. I use whole spices whevener possible and grind myself. I also make 4x as much and store it in a jar.

I usually take the skin off my chicken, as it tends to get slimy when it is braised. Crispy skin is the only way to go in my book. I use thighs and drumsticks with the bones.

Brown the chicken hard on all sides and let it cool.

Season chicken liberally with spice mixture and a bunch of fresh minced garlic and toss to coat. If you have argan oil, throw some of that on, too. Let it marinate as long as you can.

Sautee some onions and a cinnamon stick (in the same pan you browned the chicken in if you like, scraping up the brown bits, aka fond)

Return chicken to the pan with the onions and stir it all around a bit, then add enough chicken stock to come 3/4 of the way up the chicken. Bring to a light boil then turn the heat down and simmer, partially covered, for about an hour or two... until the chicken is very tender and not quite falling off the bone. *Add your olives about half way through cooking

Remove chicken from the pot with a tongs and add your preserved lemon rind to the liquid. Reduce the cooking liquid until it is slightly thickened. Arrange chicken on a platter and pour liquid over the top. Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley. Serve with basmati rice or cous cous and plenty of warm Kangaroo Pita bread to sop up the juices!

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