Cooking a Love Letter (Moroccan Chicken Tajine)


For my sister’s husband, it’s French Onion Soup. For my partner, Tom, it’s my Moroccan Chicken Tajine. Do you have a loved one that requests their favorite dish over and over? Or, for a very special occasion?


Briny, slightly sweet, multi-textured and highly aromatic, this braised chicken “stew” is filled with a medley of spices, cracked green olives and preserved lemon. It’s addictive — and an aphrodisiac for some. It’s a recipe that takes extra care, that deserves a little more attention. Just as you do when you appreciate and love someone.

Many cultures use tajines to cook stews and the beauty of the tajin design is that it braises and recirculates moisture like a steam bath. Tajine is the name of the dish and the pot. But most people in western cultures don’t have a tajine, including me. Here’s my recipe for a chicken “tagine” using a Dutch oven, but a covered cast iron skillet or heavy bottomed pan works just as well.


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Moroccan Chicken Tajine

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Print


  • 10-12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup green olives (suggest Castelvetrano), pitted
  • 1 preserved lemon, peel only (if you haven’t made these or your grocer doesn’t carry them you may use 1 lemon thinly sliced into medallions, seeds removed)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon paprika (regular, not smoked)
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed and finely minced


  1. If using preserved lemon, scrape and discard the fruit flesh, saving the peel. Thoroughly rinse the peel under running water. Soak the peel in a large bowl of water. When ready to use, rinse again, pat dry, and dice into 1/2 inch (1 cm) pieces and set aside
  2. Pit your olives. (Tips: Put in a clear bag and whack them with the flat side of a meat tenderizer, or rolling pin, or firmly press the bottom of a sauce pan on them. The olives will crack and you can easily pull the pit out.) Break each olive into 2-3 pieces
  3. Pre-heat oven to 400F (204C)
  4. Grind all spices together in a spice/coffee grinder, or mortar and pestle. Set aside until ready for use
  5. On stovetop in a Dutch oven or large, heavy skillet, heat olive oil until shimmering
  6. Pat chicken dry. Add the chicken to the pan and brown both sides (approx. 3 minutes each side). Do not crowd the Dutch oven or skillet while browning. This will cause the thighs to steam instead of brown – something you might like in a different situation, but not this one! Brown the thighs in batches, if necessary. Remove the chicken to a plate, keeping the Dutch oven or skillet on the stovetop, with the heat still on
  7. Add the spice mixture and minced garlic to the Dutch oven or skillet. Stir for 30 seconds. This will “bloom” your spices. Be prepared for some amazing aromas in your kitchen!
  8. Add the white wine to “deglaze” the pan. Use a wooden spoon to scrape off any browned chicken bits. The acid from the wine will help achieve this
  9. Add the chicken stock, preserved lemons and olives, and bring to a boil. Drop the heat down to a simmer and reduce the liquid by 40-50 %. Visually note the liquid level when you drop the heat to a simmer. Then monitor it to see how much it has reduced. The spices and other ingredients on your Dutch oven or skillet will leave its traces on the side of your cooking vessle, letting you know how much it’s reduced.
  10. Turn off the heat and layer the chicken thighs and any juices that may have exuded from them into your pot. If you are using fresh lemon slices instead of preserved lemon, layer them in with the chicken at this point
  11. Cover, and place in the oven for 30 minutes
  12. Remove from oven and carefully remove the lid. Place the chicken thighs and olives on a platter and cover with foil to keep warm
  13. If needed, return the Dutch oven or skillet to the stove top and bring the liquid to a simmer. Reduce until you have a sauce-like consistency.
  14. Pour sauce over chicken and olives. Service with pearl couscous or rice


Author: gregnelsoncooks

Visit weekly for original and adapted recipes as well as cooking tips to make your kitchen life easier — and more delicious! I’ll include simple, straight forward instructions along with recipes that are truly worth your time making. And, recipes that elevate the familiar and introduce you to the new and unexpected.

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