In college I became friends with international students from all over the Middle East and North Africa. From Morocco and Mauritania to Saudi Arabia and Iran. Part of being friends meant sharing many meals together all throughout college. Not only did these friends teach me their language, culture, and customs, but they also taught how to make food from their homelands.
Somewhere in the last 5 years since graduating college, all of us moving away and starting the next chapter of our adventures, I stopped cooking these comforting dishes that they taught me to make. I’d like to change that.
So, I started by digging out my old tagine, making some preserved lemons, and picking up some saffron and warm spice mixes from the store. I then decided to make a Moroccan Tagine Chicken with Saffron Rice and some flatbread.
Going forward, I hope to be able to post more comforting recipes I spend my early twenties eating with some close friends.
Let’s start by making the rice. This is a great basic Mediterranean rice recipe. You can switch out different spice blends to your tastes, or to match the rest of your menu. Typically I would use basmati rice, but I was out, so I just used some brown short grain rice.
I start with some diced onion and tomato. For this recipe, I used 1/2 an onion (and some green onion) and 1 Roma tomato. After sautéing briefly in a bit of oil, I add in the rice to let it toast very briefly. Then, add in the liquid. In this case, the liquid was saffron infused chicken stock. I normally try to cook my rice in vegetable or chicken stock. It’s an easy way to add more flavor to rice than you would get with just water.
In college we cooked our rice in old school pressure cookers (it was before Instant Pots were popular, or invented). But, I also recently discovered a baked rice recipe. So, that’s the approach I took with this rice recipe. It was very simple to tuck it away in the oven and let it do its thing while I worked on the other components of dinner.
Now, when the saffron has infused into our warms stock and the onion and tomato have started to soften, we mix everything together and pop it into an oven, uncovered, to cook until the rice has absorbed all of the liquid and is soft an fluffy.
This is such a simple chicken recipe. If you don’t have a tagine you can still make this chicken in a covered baking dish or Dutch oven. A tagine is similar to a Dutch oven where the the moisture circulates within the baking dish, keeping the meat moist.
I start by seasoning the chicken with some ras al hanout, a Moroccan spice blend. You can use any of your favorite spice blends, though. Then, I sear the chicken in a cast iron skillet to develop a crust. When the chicken is seared on both sides, add them to the tagine. I added a splash of chicken broth to the tagine too for some extra moisture.
Then, throw in some onions or shallots, a bit of bell pepper, and some green olives and preserved lemons for acidity. I make my own preserved lemons. They’re very simple to make. But, there’s also no shame in buying your own!
Place the top on the tagine and bake until the chicken is cooked through and the onions are soft.
Tagine Chicken and Saffron Rice
- 1/2 onion (or 1 shallot) diced
- 1 pinch saffron
- 1 roma tomato diced
- 1 cup brown or basmati rice
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 lb chicken breast
- 1 tbsp ras el hanout
- 1/2 onion (or 1 shallot) diced
- 1/2 bell pepper diced
- 1/4 cup chicken stock
- 1 preserved lemon chopped
- 1/4 cup olives halved
- salt and pepper to taste
- your favorite flatbread
- yogurt (flavored with saffron or zatar)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Let the pinch of saffron dissolve in warm chicken stock while you assemble the rest of the rice ingredients.
- Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a saute pan or stovetop-safe casserole dish. Saute the onion and roma tomato until they are soft. Then, add rice and toast ever-so slightly.
- Add chicken stock to the rice, stirring so everything is mixed together.
- Place in the oven and bake until rice has absorbed all of the liquid, about 40-45 minutes.
- While the rice starts cooking, begin making the chicken by seasoning the chicken breast with salt, pepper, and the ras el hanout.
- Then, sear the chicken breasts on both sides before adding to the tagine.
- Add chicken to the tagine, along with the remaining chicken ingredients.
- Bake in the oven, along with the rice, until chicken is cooked through, about 20-25 minutes.
- Serve with your favorite type of flatbread, and seasoned yogurt.
Yummy. Mom love your cooking