The Washington Post

Djaj M'qualli (Chicken, Olive and Lemon Tagine)

Djaj M'qualli (Chicken, Olive and Lemon Tagine) 6.000

Scott Suchman for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post

Apr 19, 2022

This Moroccan chicken stew, a tagine with olives and preserved lemon, is as comforting as it is fragrant. Tagine, named for the clay vessel in which it is traditionally cooked, is a dish that dates to the late 8th century. A tagine pot has a round bottom and a hat-like lid, which allows the air to circulate similar to a convection oven.

Traditionally served with couscous, this version also could be served with long-grain white rice, if you prefer.

Active time: 50 mins; Total time: 1 hour 35 mins, plus at least 1 hour for the chicken to cure.

Storage Notes: Refrigerate for up to 4 days.

Where to Buy: Preserved lemons can be found at well-stocked supermarkets or Middle Eastern stores.

6 - 8

When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 6-8 servings

  • 8 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs (about 3 pounds total), patted dry
  • Fine salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 1 1/2 pounds yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground white pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 1/4 cups unsalted chicken broth
  • Rind of 1 preserved lemon, chopped
  • 1/2 cup green olives, pitted and cracked (about 10 olives)
  • 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon chopped or whole leaves of fresh flat-leaf parsley (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped or whole leaves of fresh cilantro (optional)
  • Cooked couscous, for serving (optional)

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Generously season the chicken on all sides with salt and pepper and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour, or refrigerate overnight.

When ready to cook, in a tagine or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of oil until shimmering. Working in batches, if necessary, add half of the chicken, skin side down, and cook, turning once, until well browned, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a platter and repeat with the remaining chicken, if needed. This can be messy; if you have a splatter guard, use it.

Position a rack on the bottom of the oven (remove the other racks so the tagine or Dutch oven can fit) and preheat to 350 degrees.

Reduce the heat to medium and pour off all but about 2 tablespoons of the fat in the pan (if the fat burned, discard it and add 2 tablespoons of oil). Add the onions and cook, stirring often and adjusting the heat as necessary so the onions don’t burn, until rich golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.

Season the onions with the coriander, white pepper, ginger, saffron and turmeric, add a pinch of salt, and cook, stirring, until the spices are slightly toasted, about 90 seconds. Return the chicken to the tagine or Dutch oven, pour in the chicken broth and bring to a lively simmer.

Cover the tagine or Dutch oven, transfer to the oven and braise for 40 minutes, or until the chicken is tender and starts to fall off the bone. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, transfer the chicken to a platter, cover to keep warm, and return the tagine or Dutch oven to the stovetop. Turn the heat to low and simmer the sauce until it’s slightly reduced and coats the back of a spoon, about 6 minutes. Add the preserved lemons and olives and cook until warmed through. Whisk in the butter and herbs until the butter melts. Taste, and season with more salt, if desired. Remove from the heat, cover and let sit for 5 minutes.

Spoon the sauce, lemons and olives over the chicken, garnish with more parsley and/or cilantro, if using, and serve with the couscous.

Recipe Source

Adapted from “Mourad: New Moroccan” by Mourad Lahlou (Artisan, 2011).

Tested by Olga Massov.

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Nutritional Facts

Calories per serving (1 chicken thigh) based on 8: 344

% Daily Values*

Total Fat: 26g 40%

Saturated Fat: 8g 40%

Cholesterol: 121mg 40%

Sodium: 245mg 10%

Total Carbohydrates: 2g 1%

Dietary Fiber: 1g 4%

Sugar: 1g

Protein: 24g

*Percent Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Total Fat: Less than 65g

Saturated Fat: Less than 20g

Cholesterol: Less than 300mg

Sodium: Less than 2,400mg

Total Carbohydrates: 300g

Dietary Fiber: 25g

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