A Tagine of Tajine is a North African dish named after the earthenware in which it is cooked. It basically is a meat dish cooked in aromatics and dehydrated fruits or vegetables.
Not having too much of a difference from a clay pot, this adaptation of a classic dish would certainly work in a slow cooker. For this recipe, I tried to cross African cuisine with Spanish flavors with the use of sun-dried tomatoes, Spanish chorizo, garlic, and Spanish paprika. Sounds delicious right? Indeed.
To give that chicken full flavor, I chose to marinate it in paprika, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper. I chose olive oil as a carrier for these spices for its neutral taste. For these bone-in thighs, make sure to allow at least four hours of marination. You could do away with less time if working with fillets. Chicken tenders for example would need only an hour. Aside from developing deeper flavors, this marinade will give the final dish a deep saffron color.
Before searing, make sure to bring your meat to room temperature. This will allow for a better sear and much uniform cooking. Just take them out of the fridge about 30 minutes before they hit the hot pan.
I always sear my chicken skin-side down first. This way the skin hits the pan while it is still free of any caramelized debris ending up cleaner with a perfect golden color. Sear them for about a minute on each side.
Next to go into the pan would be the chorizo. You'll want to render out some of its fat instead instead of adding unnecessary oil to roast your aromatics in. Also, that paprika from the chorizo's spice mixture will give your oil a vibrant tint. After about a minute, add in your aromatics. Start with the garlic to give it a headstart. Since this recipe uses whole cloves of garlic, it'll take a bit longer to roast unlike if it were finely chopped.
You'll notice a slight wrinkling on the surface of those garlic cloves when they're ready. Time to add in the onions. Sweat them, stirring constantly, until they're translucent. They're supposed to caramelize into sweet bits and not burn.
If you end up with a some burnt pieces at the bottom of your pan, scrape them loose by deglazing with a bit of stock. White wine will work great too.
Next would be to combine everything in the slow cooker. I've tried a lot of slow cookers this year and have a lot of favorites. I used to like the small slow cookers around 4-quarts or less because as a single person I don't eat that much. However, now that I'm on a roll and saving food for the next day, I've stepped up my game to the 6-quart appliances. This time I used a very cool slow cooker called the Crock-Pot Smart Pot. It's programmable, but you don't have to set an exact time. Just punch the preset hours you want, and it'll automatically set to warm when you're done.
That slightly reduces the versatility of cooking (only 4, 6, 8, 10 hour settings), but most of the time 1 hour won't make a difference. with a slow cooker. Anyway, I really enjoy using this one. It's got a nice design and a simple interface.
Layer the aromatics at the bottom, and arrange the chicken thighs on top. This way very little of that beautiful crust touches the cooking liquid, which will wash it off.
I had my tagine with couscous with which it is traditionally paired. Having this in mind prior to cooking I added and additional cup of stock to my tagine. Why? I wanted to end up with some extra flavored stock to cook my couscous in.
So here's how I did it :
- When done cooking with the chicken, ladle out a cup of cooking stock for every cup of raw couscous you intend to cook into a small stockpot. You may want to pass this through a strainer to filter out any unwanted chunks.
- Bring the stock to a boil, add in the couscous, give it a quick stir, cover the pot, and turn off the heat. This should be ready in 5 minutes. Simple.
- Fluff the couscous with a meat fork to avoid getting them all too mushy.
That's it. With an extra 5 minutes you'll be rewarded with a chorizo and sun-dried tomato flavored couscous, which really is so yummy. Believe me. You may fold in a few chopped herbs at this stage to make it more aromatic. For this recipe, I'd say go for basil, mint, or tarragon. A few chopped nuts would also be great for added texture.