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Wolfert

Moroccan Tagine Cooking

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Oh my.... what a cruel thing to do to a person who had to settle for a peanut butter & jelly sandwich for lunch.

That looks scrumptious.

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That really looks fantastic, even for a non-chicken eater like me. Since Spring is coming I can get shad and shad roes....will look to see what I can cook up in a tagine.

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I started a chicken tagine last night and did a double recipe: one in the Egyptian clay pot and the other in a Le Creuset of comparable bottom surface area. The LC sat directly on the burner, and I put the Egyptian borma on a wok stand.

My take so far on the wok stand is that it elevates the pot off the electric coil, true, but then I had to turn the heat up to get a simmer, more than I needed when the pot sat on a flame tamer. I noticed that the sides of the pot got hotter than when the pot sat on a flame tamer, because the heat fanned out around the pot as air rose through the wok stand holes. Whether that's good or bad, I don't know. The wok stand certainly held the pot nicely.

I'll see tonight how they turn out. A small disaster involving a box of 800 toothpicks falling out of the cabinet while I was looking for more saffron delayed me so much I had to do the "refrigerate overnight" thing. (I hereby resolve to put rubber bands around my toothpick boxes. And how could I have let myself run out of saffron? :angry: )

Nancy

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I'm watching this thread with interest. But I don't know if it's appropriate to open my Algerian mouth here. :wink:

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I'm watching this thread with interest. But I don't know if it's appropriate to open my Algerian mouth here.  :wink:

Well...this thread is the daughter of one thread and the mother of another. If you think your Algerian mouth :wink: would disrupt the conversation, why not start an Algerian tagine thread? :biggrin:

Seriously, I'd be interested to know how the cuisine and cooking methods shift with the geography.

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Chef Zadi: you know it's the diversity of cooking in North Africa that is so intresting and so unknown on this side of the pond.

We need you to guide us through the center core of the region.

I might be able to help with the Tunisian side as well. I am familiar with their cooking which is very different from Algerian and Moroccan styles.

I worked as a culinary spokesperson for the Tunisian olive oil industry for about 5 years and was taught a lot of interesting quirky recipes.

So, chef zadi please speak to us.

Smithy: thanks so much for passing along the wok versus diffuser information.

Sorry about the toothpicks. Actually, I have been there myself with one spice or another.


Edited by Wolfert (log)

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This report could go almost as easily back into the eGCI Braising Lab Q&A, or even the Paprika: confessions of an addict thread, as here. But I started posting about it here before I spilled almost 800 toothpicks all over my stove and counter, so I'll finish it here.

Double-Cooked Red Chicken Marrakech-Style, from Paula Wolfert's The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen: Recipes for the Passionate Cook. Well, almost. The recipe calls for whole chickens, and I didn't want to cook that much. I used chicken thighs only, because I wanted to compare the dish cooked two ways: in my Egyptian clay pot and in a Le Creuset French oven (oval) of roughly the same bottom area. The geometries are different. I don't know how relevant that is.

The clay pot was on a wok stand over a large coil of my electric stove. The LC was on a small burner, on my reasoning that it would transmit heat more readily than the clay pot and that the smaller coil would provide a lower heat for simmering. I used 6 chicken thighs per pot, and used exactly the same spice mix, garlic, water, etc. to the best of my ability to measure them. There were some differences in timing, since I'm being pretty careful not to overheat the clay pot and I have no such fears about the LC. Nonetheless I went slowly with both.

gallery_17034_944_1410.jpg

I noted upthread that the heat from the coil came up around the clay pot sides more, with it elevated by the wok stand, than when it had been on a flame tamer directly on the coil. I realized later that I could have put the pot and wok stand over the small burner coil, and maybe concentrated the heat on the bottom. I may try that later, but tonight the LC was there and I had other plans for the back burners.

Attention paprika freaks: this chicken has a lot of paprika in the coating, and it's goood. There's also garlic, cilantro that basically disappears, cumin, pepper, ginger, onion, saffron (if you haven't run out) and cayenne.

The procedure seems to be what you do with tagines (correct me if I'm wrong, Wolfert, please): coat the meat with a seasoning (garlic, herbs, butter, spices in this case) , toss over low heat until things start to warm up, then add onions and water and bring to the boil. Then cover the pot, lower the heat and simmer. The LC came up to temperature first, and I had to cut its heat back. Eventually I had both pots simmering at the same slow rate, judging by the bubbles. I will not report the temperatures I measured last night, because I didn't write them down and I'm not sure I trust my memory. I do remember, however, that the simmering temperatures (at the bottom of the liquid) were within 10*F of each other. I simmered a little over an hour, and by that time the chicken in each vessel was fork-tender.

Here's the Egyptian pot (borma) after liquid was added, and before the simmer started:

gallery_17034_944_143.jpg

and while simmering:

gallery_17034_944_23238.jpg

Up to this point, the dishes looked the same except for the cooking vessels, so I won't duplicate with LC photos. Afterward, they diverged. The chicken in the LC was fully covered by liquid by the time the hour was up. The chicken in the clay pot was not submerged. After refrigeration overnight I defatted both dishes, rewarmed the liquid, and measured. The Le Creuset dish had 2 cups of liquid. The clay pot had 1 cup of liquid. As far as I know, both were as tightly covered during cooking. I definitely started with the same amount of liquid and solids.

Here's what the clay pot chicken looked like after refrigeration (I didn't separate the meat and sauce overnight):

gallery_17034_944_17636.jpg

Here's the Le Creuset version after the same treatment:

gallery_17034_944_6128.jpg

That's a piece of chicken, submerged, in the upper center of the photo. There was twice as much liquid, by volume, in the LC dish as in the borma.

After that step you separate the sauce from the chicken, boil down the sauce, rub some of the rescued fat (with yet more paprika and other spices) on the chicken, and broil the chicken until it's browned. Serve with the sauce and a garnish of preserved lemons. Zinfandel in the glass isn't a bad accompaniment.

gallery_17034_944_34507.jpg

Dinner! LC chicken on the left, clay pot chicken on the right. Not much visual difference, especially with my photos. I've decided to blame the white plates.

The differences: because the LC chicken had thrown off a lot more liquid, that made for a lot more sauce (even after boiling down) at the table. The clay pot chicken lost more moisture during the broiling stage, and the plate had a bunch of reddish oil around the chicken after that step. That must mean something, although I don't know what. I think the clay pot chicken was a bit more tender and fall-apart melty. The LC, however, did a fine job, and the chicken was plenty tender and flavorful. Both tasted wonderful.

I wish, oh how I wish, that you readers could have been here for the event, but that wouldn't have left me many leftovers. I recommend you go try it for yourself. :wub:

Nancy

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Double-Cooked Red Chicken Marrakech-Style, from Paula Wolfert's The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen: Recipes for the Passionate Cook.

Is there anyway you could share that recipe with us? I would be very interested in trying it! Your pictures and description of the dish are making my mouth water...

And to the Algerian tagine expert, please speak up! I'd love to learn about the differences....

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Smithy, that is a terrific report. Looks like it tastes good, too. You can't have too much paprika. :biggrin:

I am not particularly surprised at the differences in the amount of liquid between the two pots. The porous clay pots will lose water through the sides of the pot as well as from the top surface. I am thinking that that process is part of the charm of cooking in these clay pots. You get a more efficient concentration (loss of water) of the sauce in the clay.

That is a really cool clay pot!

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Double-Cooked Red Chicken Marrakech-Style, from Paula Wolfert's The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen: Recipes for the Passionate Cook.

Is there anyway you could share that recipe with us? I would be very interested in trying it! Your pictures and description of the dish are making my mouth water...

I'm so glad you like the writeup! Since I began to post on eGullet I've discovered that it's a lot harder to make those photos come out than it appears.

As for the recipe: I'd post a link if I knew of one, but this particular recipe may not be online. Maybe, if we asked politely, and even begged a little, the author would be willing to post it. Since she's actively participating in this thread, I'd rather she summarize the ingredients, proportions, and so on to the extent she's willing.

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Smithy, that is a terrific report. Looks like it tastes good, too. You can't have too much paprika. :biggrin:

I am not particularly surprised at the differences in the amount of liquid between the two pots. The porous clay pots will lose water through the sides of the pot as well as from the top surface. I am thinking that that process is part of the charm of cooking in these clay pots. You get a more efficient concentration (loss of water) of the sauce in the clay.

That is a really cool clay pot!

That's a good point about the sauce. When I finally got it boiled down in the borma there was not very much left, but it was considerably thicker than in the LC. It almost looked like a starch had been added and not mixed in properly.

I wonder, though, if the liquid is really going all the way through the sides. I was envisioning it being absorbed into the pot and then doing a slow back-and-forth exchange with the free sauce at the interface, with some liquid absorbed in the clay and unavailable for serving. I admit that might not account for nearly a 50% loss (somewhat less since the chicken still had fat to give up under the broiler). There's no noticeable moisture or color change on the outside the way you have with a clay water holder or those clay wine bottle coolers that were so popular back in the 70's. Is that because the heat from below (and with the wok ring, the sides as well) evaporates the water so quickly that it keeps the pot sides cool without being detectable on the outside of the pot?

This particular pot, unlike some of its cousins in this house, has been sitting as a decoration, holding pine cones and interesting Southern California tree pods, until now. I thank Wolfert for getting me going on using it as it was intended.

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This particular pot, unlike some of its cousins in this house, has been sitting as a decoration, holding pine cones and interesting Southern California tree pods, until now. I thank Wolfert for getting me going on using it as it was intended.

Smithy, that was a wonderful report. Thanks so much. The photos look good, too.

You mentioned (see your quote) the pot has been sitting around holding pinecones. So it hasn't been used in a long time. Or ever? Do you remember whether you were supposed to soak it before curing back when you bought it?

I'm only guessing but the huge evaporation of liquid might have happened due to the super dry walls of the pot.

On the other hand, 1 cup of liquid for a chicken or its equal in weight in thighs doesn't need more than l cup. Tagines like braises do better with less liquid.

Is there anyway you could share that recipe with us? I would be very interested in trying it! Your pictures and description of the dish are making my mouth water...

I'm sorry, I don't have the time to type in the recipe today. Saturdays are difficult around here.If anyone who has the book and feels up to the challenge, you have my permission. If not, I'll type it up tomorrow morning and then if you are all still interested we can discuss the claypot versus the LC.

I'm very interested.

If the chicken came out right with the claypot, it would have been meltingly soft and juicy. Followed by broiling, you should have a crisp skin just barely holding the chicken flesh in place.

Fifi: We need your help.

Thanks for providing the name of the pot. I am beginning to set up a grid with names of pots, curing,et.

I love your pot! It is beautiful. How high are the walls versus the diameter? I have some similar ones used in the eastern mediterranean to make moussake, and Turkish guvec (meat and vegetable stews). Guvec uses only the liquid the meat and vegetables throw off during the cooking to keep everything juicy.

t.

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I mentioned this subject to a friend who is from France.

She and her husband have lived here for many years but still return home every couple of years. They are not from Paris but manage to spend a couple of days shopping there every visit.

She gave me this web address for a place in Paris that often has unusual cooking vessels from North Africa.

She doesn't know if they will ship to the U.S. but said they might have some suggestions.

I don't speak French so it wouldn't be much use for me to call, but I thought someone might be interested.

Paris cafe.

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Here is what is going on with the pot . . .

If Smithy's pot had not been soaked with water, it quite possibly "shlurped up" a bit of the water in the beginning. (shlurped up = highly technical term) Dry clay in contact with water is going to try to reach an equilibrium of sorts. In contact with a permeable barrier, water wants to go where it isn't. (If that doesn't fry your brain, you aren't paying attention. :biggrin: )

But even if the pot had been soaked, water loss through the walls is inevitable. Smithy, your instincts are right on. The heat from the outside of the pot is evaporating the water off as it migrates. In fact there are forces at work here that are actually "pulling" the water through the walls. (From a scientific standpoint that is a poor analogy but is the best way I know to describe it.)

Back to your observations about water jars . . . In low humidities, the outside of the jar doesn't usually look wet, unless the pottery is very porous to the point that there are actual tiny holes. That is a different process altogether. Remember that you don't have to be at boiling temperature to get evaporation. Heat just speeds it up. As a case in point, when I cured my Black Chamba I reported on this phenomenon here. (Scroll up for the curing process which is just water in the oven.) The pots were noticeably heavier. As they sat out on the table by an open window (It was a rare day.) they were noticeably cold to the touch even in our high humidities. The outside didn't feel wet at all but the temperature is a sure indicator that evaporation is going on. The wet spot on the table is from condensation of that water vapor being trapped between the bottom of the pot and the table surface, aided and abetted by the low temperature of the pot.

Now I am going waaaay out on a limb here since I have never cooked in a tagine. (Perhaps Paula can correct me if I am off base because I am operating on a "thought experiment" here, more commonly called a head game.) I am thinking that the conical or domed top of the tagine is actually acting as what we could call a condensor in the chemistry lab or chemical plant. You are providing a relatively cool surface for vapors to condense. The design of the tagine, the "high hat" if you will, gets that surface away from the heat so that it can remain cooler. In the case of unglazed clay, the cooling effect can be enhanced by the evaporation of water from the outside surface as described above. Even if the lid isn't presoaked in water, water vapor will move through it just as described and contribute to the temperature control. What I don't know is if the unglazed clay lids are typically soaked in water. I am thinking that it might not be a bad idea to soak them.

In summary, the differences you are seeing is how water is galloping around within the food, the pot and the various surfaces it comes in contact with. The more I think about it, the more I appreciate the genius of the design of a tagine. (My Rifi has been ordered. :laugh: )

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(My Rifi has been ordered.  :laugh: )

My Rifi should arrive on Wednesday :raz::biggrin: !

Sigh... I ordered a Souss tagine, but according to the UPS tracking information, it was shipped to Davenport, Iowa. :angry: Working out how to get that fixed.

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I'm with Sam here. Ordered a Souss...probably get here much later than it says on the UPS tracking info.

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*Press Release - URGENT! Immediate broadcast requested.*

"It has come to our attention that there has been a run on tagines. The tagine market is in a shambles and tagine futures are soaring basis a deepseated fear in the marketplace that supply will not keep up with demand. A congressional committee in the US has been convened to investigate. Senator Honksalot has stated, 'We will get to the bottom of this deplorable situation. Our investigators are looking into a secret Society that operates on the internet.' Stay tuned to your local news sources for updates on this fast breaking news."

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*Press Release - URGENT! Immediate broadcast requested.*

"It has come to our attention that there has been a run on tagines. The tagine market is in a shambles and tagine futures are soaring basis a deepseated fear in the marketplace that supply will not keep up with demand. A congressional committee in the US has been convened to investigate. Senator Honksalot has stated, 'We will get to the bottom of this deplorable situation. Our investigators are looking into a secret Society that operates on the internet.' Stay tuned to your local news sources for updates on this fast breaking news."

:laugh::laugh::laugh:

But really...I MUST not visit that site....tax time...tax time... :unsure: ...although, they really aren't very expensive...

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This particular pot, unlike some of its cousins in this house, has been sitting as a decoration, holding pine cones and interesting Southern California tree pods, until now. I thank Wolfert for getting me going on using it as it was intended.

You mentioned (see your quote) the pot has been sitting around holding pinecones. So it hasn't been used in a long time. Or ever? Do you remember whether you were supposed to soak it before curing back when you bought it?

I'm only guessing but the huge evaporation of liquid might have happened due to the super dry walls of the pot.

On the other hand, 1 cup of liquid for a chicken or its equal in weight in thighs doesn't need more than l cup. Tagines like braises do better with less liquid.

<snippo>

If the chicken came out right with the claypot, it would have been meltingly soft and juicy. Followed by broiling, you should have a crisp skin just barely holding the chicken flesh in place.

Fifi: We need your help.

Thanks for providing the name of the pot. I am beginning to set up a grid with names of pots, curing,et.

I love your pot! It is beautiful. How high are the walls versus the diameter? I have some similar ones used in the eastern mediterranean to make moussake, and Turkish guvec (meat and vegetable stews). Guvec uses only the liquid the meat and vegetables throw off during the cooking to keep everything juicy.

t.

I really meant that I'd never used this pot for cooking before. It's a bit embarrassing to admit that, because we've had it for years, but all we ever saw this particular pot style used for was to serve potatoes in tomato sauce. I used the Egyptian tagine (which appeared in the braising experiments) and smaller bowls for moussaka, and am only now discovering the wonders of braising in general and cooking tagines in clay in particular. I finally got around to curing this pot last weekend, in order to try cooking tagines in it.

The original instructions did not include soaking the pottery, and I suspect these pots would explode like your Turkish pots did if they were soaked and then coated, but I don't know. What I was shown was to wash the pottery with hot water and scrub pad (can't remember about detergent) to get the loose clay dust off, and let the pot air dry thoroughly. (Edited to add: air drying can be done in low-temperature oven, if desired.) Then coat it inside and out with molasses, set in the oven (upside down over foil works well), turn the temperature up to medium heat, and cook until done. It takes a few hours. You can tell it's done because the appearance of the molasses changes. It kind of beads up on the pot and forms a patchy crust. After the pot is cool you have to give it a quick wipe to get the loose molasses crust off; otherwise you get it all over everything you set it on.

I've never had these pots (used or unused) leave water residue on furniture. That may be because I re-dry them after use. I learned the hard way that if they weren't quite dry they'd sprout a healthy mold colony (love that molasses) and I'd have to start all over. I don't know what Sabra does about that in Luxor, but I have taken to putting the pots in the oven on warm for a while after I've used and cleaned them.

Caution on my terminology! I call this pot a "borma" (plural "boraam") but I think that's just a generic term for a clay pot. The Egyptians are quite specific about the tagine I used in the braising thread - that is a "tagine", pronounced more or less "DA-jin" and quite unlike the Moroccan cone-topped tagine. If there is a similar term reserved for this size and shape of bowl, I don't know what it is. I may be able to find out. Anyway, it's fun to say "borma", but keep in mind my extremely limited language skills.

This pot's interior is slightly over 9" diameter at the rim - anywhere from 9-1/4" to 9-3/8" inside diameter at the top. The interior bottom where it more or less flattens out is roughly 7" diameter. It's about 2-5/8" deep. The walls of the rim are 1/2" thick except where there are two points for stabilizing it, at 3 o'clock and 9 o'clock, and two sturdy loops for hanging, at 12 o'clock and 6 o'clock. (How much longer, in this digital age, will we be able to use those expressions?) I'll try to post a photo tomorrow of what I'm talking about. The exterior is pretty round, even on the bottom, so it rocks slightly without a flame tamer, wok ring, or similar slightly larger circular stand.

On the other hand, 1 cup of liquid for a chicken or its equal in weight in thighs doesn't need more than l cup. Tagines like braises do better with less liquid.
Is there anyway you could share that recipe with us? I would be very interested in trying it! Your pictures and description of the dish are making my mouth water...

I'm sorry, I don't have the time to type in the recipe today. Saturdays are difficult around here.If anyone who has the book and feels up to the challenge, you have my permission. If not, I'll type it up tomorrow morning and then if you are all still interested we can discuss the claypot versus the LC.

I'm very interested.

If the chicken came out right with the claypot, it would have been meltingly soft and juicy. Followed by broiling, you should have a crisp skin just barely holding the chicken flesh in place.

Thanks for those extra insights. I followed your recipe down to the quantities, but did wonder whether there's really some rule of thumb for tagines like braises - liquid should only be halfway up the meat, or some such.

The chicken was quite tender and fell apart with the fork.

I'm not only interested in pursuing the LC vs. clay more, I'm wondering about glazed ceramic vs. unglazed clay. I just might risk a casserole dish atop the stove on that experiment.

Edited as noted above.


Edited by Smithy (log)

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Here is what is going on with the pot . . .

If Smithy's pot had not been soaked with water, it quite possibly "shlurped up" a bit of the water in the beginning. (shlurped up = highly technical term) Dry clay in contact with water is going to try to reach an equilibrium of sorts. In contact with a permeable barrier, water wants to go where it isn't. (If that doesn't fry your brain, you aren't paying attention. :biggrin: )

But even if the pot had been soaked, water loss through the walls is inevitable. Smithy, your instincts are right on. The heat from the outside of the pot is evaporating the water off as it migrates. In fact there are forces at work here that are actually "pulling" the water through the walls. (From a scientific standpoint that is a poor analogy but is the best way I know to describe it.)

That makes sense, even if it makes my head hurt. Actually, it makes water sound like a cat: wants to go where it isn't. If I think about it long enough, I may actually come up with the hydraulic effect word you're looking for. Hmm.

Now I am going waaaay out on a limb here since I have never cooked in a tagine. (Perhaps Paula can correct me if I am off base because I am operating on a "thought experiment" here, more commonly called a head game.)  I am thinking that the conical or domed top of the tagine is actually acting as what we could call a condensor in the chemistry lab or chemical plant. You are providing a relatively cool surface for vapors to condense. The design of the tagine, the "high hat" if you will, gets that surface away from the heat so that it can remain cooler. In the case of unglazed clay, the cooling effect can be enhanced by the evaporation of water from the outside surface as described above. Even if the lid isn't presoaked in water, water vapor will move through it just as described and contribute to the temperature control. What I don't know is if the unglazed clay lids are typically soaked in water. I am thinking that it might not be a bad idea to soak them. 

In summary, the differences you are seeing is how water is galloping around within the food, the pot and the various surfaces it comes in contact with. The more I think about it, the more I appreciate the genius of the design of a tagine. (My Rifi has been ordered.  :laugh: )

Paula's earlier description made me think of the cone as a cooling tower. Sounds like you're right on, Madam Materials Scientist. And I love the description of water galloping around! :laugh:

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I am so enjoying this topic, it's really getting me in the mood to prepare a tagine. :smile:

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Sackville girl: Thanks for sharing the recipe as you saw it prepared in the Zagora style. Having been there for such a short time I never really got a chance to learn any of th local dishes. I must try your recipe.

Perhaps you didn't know that the tagine you posted is produced on the western coast of Morocco in the town of Sale. The term tagine slaoui means a tagine from Sale. By the way, I went to your site of recipes. What a huge and interesting collection! You should publish a book. The variety is so damm interesting.

Fifi and Nancy: I need to re-read and soak up the incredible outpouring of wisdom the two of you have put forth. Thank you for taking the time to put down all your insights.

The braised and browned chicken dish called djej mhammer (meaning reddish due to the huge amount of paprika) that you prepared in two pots is what I want to write about right now.

Nancy, I have a comparison that is a clear match to your experience...well almost. The span is 30 years between the first time I made the recipe and the last time about 4 years ago. This wouldn't mean anything but I just happen to have the two recipes in front of me, side by side..

In my first book, from now on to be referred to as CFM (couscous and other good food from morocco), I printed almost the same recipe for djej mhammer using two chickens as you tested the other day. It is a classic dish from Rabat.

I am sure I cooked it in a tagine at that time because I lived in Morocco and I didn't have a heavy casserole made of enameled cast iron. I had copper caseroles and earthenware tagines, but not expensive French cookware..

To help make the book accessible, my mother and best girl friend, both living in the states spot tested a lot of the recipes using whatever pots they had to make sure the recipes worked.

,.

In the slow Med published 2 years ago, I suggested cooking the two chickens in an LC. I called for the same amount of spices and herbs as in the traditional recipe.

I upped the garlic and reduced the butter (chickens in morocco are scrawny and need that extra fat to cook up juicy), and the method used for browning was broiling..

Here is the kicker: I notice there are three important changes: the water,the pot, and the browning of the chicken.

In CFM I bring 3 cups of water in a 5 1/2 quart casserole with cover to the boil , lower the heat, cover, and cook l hour . When ready to brown, I do it in a skillet and brown one chicken at a time. That is because I didn't have a broiler in Morocco.

In Slow Med I bring 1 1/2 cups of water in a large enameled cast iron pot and cover and cook the chicken for l hour. (There is no mention of a tagine as an alternative .) and I broil the chicken.

. My mother and best girl friend living in the states spot checked a lot of the recipes using whatever pots they had to make sure the recipes worked.

So which recipe, if any, do you want me to type up?

Can you see that the bourma had some insight into the dish and corrected the error?

What else can I say?


Edited by Wolfert (log)

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Sackville girl: Thanks for sharing  the recipe as you saw it  prepared in the Zagora style. Having been there for such a short time I never really got a chance to learn any of th local dishes.  I must try your recipe.

You're very welcome. I also learned how to make couscous and some salads there and have all the directions written in my notebook but I haven't yet transcribed them. I would love to go back and just spend months learning the cuisine. Can't do that anytime soon so in the meantime I just went to Amazone and ordered two of your books :biggrin:

I hope you like the tagine. I'm afraid some people may think it a little bland, as it doesn't have much in the way of "exotic" seasoning that we often associate with Morocco. I think it is a fairly authentic yet basic tagine that the average person would eat on a daily basis.

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