As the proud owner of a Big Green Egg, I am sold on the joys of ceramic cookware and the consistently even and moist heat that they produce. So I was very happy when Emile Henry sent me a flame-proof tagine to try out.
A tagine is a North-African meal named for the cone-topped ceramic pot in which it is cooked. Typically it’s a heavily-spiced stew that’s slowly braised in the sealed pot so that all of the flavors meld together while the meat becomes amazingly tender.
This recipe of a rough adaptation of Adam Perry Lang’s Moroccan Lamb Stew from his Serious Barbecue book. I really like the idea of grilling the meat first to get it charred and crispy, adding it to the veggies, and then letting the tagine do it’s magic.
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon tumeric
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Combine all of the spices in a small bowl and mix them together. Put the chicken in a zip-top bag, dust it with the spice mix, and toss them to make sure that all of the thighs are covered. Squeeze the air out of the bag, sealed it, and put it in the fridge to marinate for at least 4 hours, overnight is better.
1 large onion, sliced
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (14.5-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried parsley
4 ounces butter
Over medium-low heat, melt the butter in the bottom half of the tagine. Removed from the heat and add the remaining veggies and spices.
Set your grill up for a direct cook over high (500°F) heat.
Grill the thighs for about 3-5 minutes a side. They don’t have to be cooked through – what you are looking for are some good grill marks and some crispy bits. When the thighs are nice and brown, move them off to the bottom of the tagine with the veggies. Push the thighs into the mixture so that they are at least partially covered with liquid.
Set your grill up for an indirect cook at medium (350°F) heat. On the Big Green Egg this means removing the grate and dropping in the inverted plate setter. On a kettle-style grill you could just move the briquettes to the sides. On a gas grill you’d want to turn off the middle burner and reduce the heat on the side ones.
Set the bottom half of the tagine on the grill.
Cover the tagine, close the lid on the grill, and let the goodies braise for an hour.
Bring the whole works to the table, crack the lid open, and voilà – fragrant, spicy, warm, and tender.
I had not cooked with a tagine before, and frankly couldn’t imagine how if would be any different than using a Dutch oven – boy, was I wrong. The tagine really seemed to concentrate flavors. While the veggies cooked down quite a bit, they also caramelized more than I expected and didn’t turn all mushy.
The flavors were wonderful. No one flavor dominated, so it wasn’t overwhelming, but still very complex. I was afraid with all the sweet spices and honey that the dish would end up cloying, but it turned out to be very savory, warm, and aromatic.