I finished the seasoning process for the new tagine in time to use it for dinner. For my first test run, I selected one of the recipes that came with the tagine; a simple stew of chicken, fennel, onions and lemons. You’ll notice there’s no recipe included here. There’s a reason for that.
The recipe called for a whole, cut up chicken. There was no way that was going to fit in this little tagine. I put bone-in chicken breasts on the grocery list and could only fit in two, cut in half, along with half an onion, the two fennel bulbs quartered and most of a sliced lemon. The recipe also called for 1 ½ cups of chicken broth and ½ cup of water.
After I stacked up all the ingredients, maybe 1/3 cup of broth fit in the bottom. I decided it might be a good idea to sit the whole thing on a cookie sheet in the oven since I had a feeling that between the broth, the juices from the chicken and the lemon, there might be an overflow issue. Was there ever! I suctioned out several cups of liquid with a basting syringe around the lip of the tagine while it was cooking. I still managed to get liquid all over the place.
The recipe said to cook at low heat for an hour. What is low heat? What kind of recipe is that? Since the temperature for seasoning the pottery was 300 degrees, I thought maybe I shouldn’t go too much higher than that. I chose 325. After an hour, the chicken was nowhere near done. I turned the heat up to 350. We were hungry.
In another half an hour, two of the breast halves tested done with a thermometer, so we decided to eat. The other two – well, I’ll put them in the microwave later. The onions were okay and the fennel was still raw. The seasoning was actually pretty good. Prior to putting in the tagine, the chicken had been seasoned with turmeric, olive oil, a lot of salt and white pepper.
I served what was edible with couscous and saved the dinner by opening a bottle of our favorite Thomas Fogarty Santa Cruz Mountains chardonnay.
After dinner, Larry decided to do some research on tagines. Maybe Santa should have done some homework, too. Larry found an article from an author who claimed to have extensive experience with tagines. She said if you don’t have one, don’t bother. Just use a Dutch oven. My current inclination is to agree. But I won’t give up quite yet. I’ll try a couple more recipes being mindful of the volume, time and temperature restrictions. Maybe I’ll still find out what’s so magical about that cone shaped lid.