Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemons
This is the deliciously autumnal dish that Sylvie prepares one evening when, unexpectedly, Erik invites her to stay and share it with him. His excuse is that she has made too much for one person, but in fact, he is beginning to enjoy her company, and is now able to leave off his mask when they are together. Unfortunately, this is also the night that Erik shows Sylvie his automata of Christine, and things begin to unravel between them.
Just as in Sylvie’s day, you can still find a plethora of wild mushrooms in the street markets of Paris in the fall. These days you can sometimes find fresh wild mushrooms in our supermarkets but if not, the next best thing is to buy some dried ones and reconstitute them by soaking in hot water according to the package instructions. I would say you could try any combination you like, but I would not use dried porcini, which is more Italian anyway, and has quite a strong flavor.
Directions: In a bowl, mix together all the marinade ingredients. Place the chicken pieces in a shallow dish such as a roasting pan and coat them well in the marinade, rubbing it into the skin. Cover the chicken and chill in refrigerator for 1-2 hours.
When ready to cook, heat the olive oil with the butter in a heavy-based casserole dish. Remove chicken from marinade and brown the pieces in the oil. Once browned, pour over the marinade that is left in the dish and add enough water to come halfway up the sides of the chicken pieces. Bring the water to a boil, reduce heat and cover with a lid. Simmer for about 45 minutes, turning the chicken from time to time.
Note: if you have an authentic tagine pot and wish to use it, have your BBQ coals ready (burned down to where they are emitting steady heat but no flame) and once the chicken has come to a boil, transfer the contents of the casserole into the tagine dish. Cover with the conical lid and carefully place on the grill over the coals. Proceed as above for the rest of the recipe. You may have to add a few extra coals to keep it nice and hot for 45 minutes.
Once the tagine has cooked for 45 minutes, remove the lid and add the preserved lemons, olives, and half the thyme. Give it a stir, cover again and continue to simmer for a further 20 minutes. By this time the chicken should be falling-apart tender and delicious. Serve in whichever dish you cooked it in, seasoned and sprinkled with the remaining thyme (or oregano). Serve with couscous and perhaps a small green salad.
Try it and you will see why it was Erik’s favorite!