Most braised meat and stew recipes on Serious Eats start with a meat-searing step, but not this one—a good reminder that there's more than one way to build incredible depth of flavor in a dish. While this isn't a traditional tagine, it uses the delicate cooking method common to many tagine recipes as well as familiar North African flavors, including warm spices, dried fruits, and nuts.
The word tagine can refer to both the cooking vessel—typically a shallow earthenware dish with a conical lid—and the food that's prepared in it. Because the earthenware is at risk of cracking under high heat (or from rapid temperature changes), it's necessary to use a more gentle flame, which coaxes out the juices from the aromatic vegetables like onion and garlic as well as the chicken, creating a rich fat-slicked broth that bathes the meat, chickpeas, figs, and pistachios. Warm spices like ground ginger, turmeric, and, optionally, floral saffron, add even more depth.
If you don't have an actual tagine, don't worry. This recipe will also work in a Dutch oven. Simply keep the lid on (except when you occasionally stir to prevent anything from sticking and burning), to trap all that moisture necessary to form the braising liquid.
You can also use this recipe as inspiration for whatever you have in your pantry. No dried figs? Dried prunes, apricots, or raisins could work too. No pistachios? Try blanched whole almonds.
Why It Works
- Gentle heat and the natural juices from the onions and chicken are all you need for this simple yet deeply flavored stew.
- Keeping the vessel covered during cooking traps that moisture, creating the dish's juices.
- Dried figs, pistachio nuts, and spices add layers of flavor and a mix of textures.
- Yield:Serves 4
- Total time:1 hour 15 minutes
- 1/4 cup (60ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large or two medium yellow onions (about 1 pound; 450g), thinly sliced
- 6 medium garlic cloves, smashed
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- Pinch saffron (optional)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 whole chicken legs (about 3 pounds; 1.3kg total), split into drumsticks and thighs
- 6 ounces (170g) dried figs (about 25 figs)
- 1/2 cup shelled roasted pistachios (about 2 1/2 ounces; 70g)
- 1 1/2 cups (9 ounces; 255g) cooked and drained chickpeas or one drained 15-ounce can chickpeas
- Picked leaves of fresh herbs like mint, cilantro, and/or parsley, for garnish
- Cooked long grain rice or couscous, for serving
In a tagine or Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat until just shimmering. Stir in onions, garlic, ginger, turmeric, and saffron (if using), and season with salt.
Season chicken all over with salt and pepper and nestle into the onions along with the figs and pistachios. Lower heat to medium-low, cover, and cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of tagine or pot occasionally to prevent sticking and scorching, until chicken is cooked through and registers 165°F (75°C) on an instant-read thermometer, about 1 hour; lower heat at any point if the onions seem to be sticking and browning quickly (a little bit of browning is okay, but you want everything to cook gently).
Transfer chicken to a serving platter, stir chickpeas into onion mixture, and continue to cook until warmed through. Season onions and chickpeas with salt, if needed. Spoon onion and chickpea mixture along with cooking juices, figs, and pistachios on top of chicken. Garnish with picked herbs and serve with warm rice or couscous. (Alternatively, you can return the chicken pieces to the tagine and serve from there.)