We love the way the liberal warm spices, sweetness, and tart brininess of a tagine enliven workaday chicken, so we set to develop a chicken tagine with depth of flavour—in about an hour.
We followed our standard for braised chicken recipes: We browned the skin-on chicken pieces to give the braising liquid deep flavour, removed the chicken from the pot and sauteed the aromatics (onion, garlic, and lemon zest strips) along with a blend of spices (paprika, cumin, cayenne, ginger, coriander, and cinnamon), and added chicken broth for braising and honey for sweetness.
With the flavourful base built, we returned the chicken to the pot, starting the longer-cooking thighs and drumsticks before the breasts. Along with green olives, we finished and brightened the dish with a mixture of minced lemon zest strips and garlic, lemon juice, and fresh cilantro.
For best results, use four chicken thighs and two chicken breasts, each breast split in half; the dark meat contributes valuable flavour to the broth and should not be omitted. Make sure to trim any white pith from the zest, as it can impart bitter flavour. If the olives are particularly salty, give them a rinse.
CHICKEN TAGINE WITH OLIVES AND LEMON
Start to finish: 45 minutes
1 1/4 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 (2-inch) strips lemon zest plus 3 tablespoons juice
5 garlic cloves, minced
4 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces, trimmed
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, halved and sliced
1/4 inch thick
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon honey
2 carrots, peeled and cut crosswise
into 1/2-inch-thick rounds, very large pieces cut into half-moons
2 cups pitted Greek green olives, halved
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Combine paprika, cumin, ginger, cayenne, coriander, and cinnamon in small bowl; set aside. Mince 1 lemon zest strip and combine with 1 teaspoon garlic; mince together until reduced to fine paste and set aside.
Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add chicken, skin side down, and cook until well browned, about 5 minutes. Using tongs, flip chicken and brown second side, about 4 minutes longer; transfer to large plate. When cool enough to handle, discard skin. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from pot.
Add onion and remaining 2 lemon zest strips to pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion slices have browned at edges but still retain their shape, 5 to 7 minutes (add 1 tablespoon water as needed if pot begins to scorch). Add remaining garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add reserved spice mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until darkened and very fragrant, 45 seconds to 1 minute. Stir in broth and honey, scraping up any browned bits. Add drumsticks and thighs, reduce heat to medium, and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add carrots to pot, then arrange breast pieces in single layer on top of carrots. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until breast pieces register 160 F and drumsticks/thighs register 175 F, 10 to 15 minutes.
Transfer chicken to plate and tent with aluminum foil. Add olives to pot; increase heat to medium-high and simmer until liquid has thickened slightly and carrots are tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Return chicken to pot and stir in cilantro, lemon juice, and reserved garlic mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.