Moroccan Chicken Legs with Preserved Lemons

It’s been a long time between posts, but I thought it was about time I get back to blogging. I don’t have any excuses anymore, my thesis is finished, I’ve graduated from grad school, Ryan and I moved, and we’ve gotten married. All those big events are done, so there’s nothing holding me back from being a better blogger. As well, getting married makes for an excellently equipped kitchen with lots of opportunities to try out new meals.

One of my new kitchen gadgets is the inspiration for this blog post. At my bridal shower a family friend gave me a Moroccan tagine. image (10)When I opened it I was impressed by how beautiful it was, but I had no idea how to use it! The tagine is a ceramic cooking vessel made up of two parts. The bottom is like a dish, and the top is a cone shaped lid. There is a small hole at the top of the cone to let out the heat and steam.

The same family friend followed up at the wedding by giving us Mourad Lahlou’s book New Moroccan. I read through the book and got some tips on how to use the tagine, and I made a couple of stew-like meals and they came out pretty well. Pretty well – but not great. Every time Ryan and I would have a couple of ideas about how we could make it better the next time. I was feeling mildly discouraged, but then on William-Sonoma’s website I found a video of Mourad cooking the Chicken Legs with Preserved Lemons in a tagine! The recipe is also in his book, and so armed with all of these resources I felt sure I could finally use the tagine well. If you don’t have a tagine, don’t despair! If you have a dutch oven or some other ceramic cooking vessel that can go on the stove and in the oven, you can do this recipe!

Before getting to the recipe, I wanted to talk about the seasonings. First, I was skeptical about preserved lemons. Mourad’s book talks about how important preserved lemons are to Moroccan cooking and he gives details instructions on how to make them, but I was less than convinced I’d do it myself. But, Williams-Sonoma, always my favorite dream cooking and food place sells preserved lemons in the store so it saved me a step! They tasted pretty good in the recipe but straight out of the jar – OH MY! They are so salty, but also tangy from the citrus. It’s a powerful flavor. I was also a little put-off by the amount of spices required for the recipe. I didn’t have a lot of the spices in my cabinet before doing this, and so buying all those spices hurts the wallet a bit – but it is worth it. First, now I actually have the spices and can make it again. But, it also creates an incredible yellow broth that smells just decadent. Expanding my horizons from my usual salt, pepper, and garlic powder was truly worth it!

Anyway, let’s get to the recipe!


4-6 chicken legs with thighs (use what fits in your tagine, mine only fit 4)


vegetable oil (Mourad uses duck fat, but I don’t have that kind of thing!)

5 cups thinly sliced yellow onions

2 tbsp ground coriander

2 tsp ground white pepper

2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp saffron threads

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

4-6 quarter preserved lemon rind (as many rinds as you have chicken legs)

1/2 cup green olives, pitted and cracked

3-4 tbsp unsalted butter


1. Salt the chicken legs and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour

2. Preheat over to 350° and make sure there will be enough space for the tagine in the oven. You might have to take out all racks except the bottom one.

3. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a pan at medium-high heat. Once it’s hot, add the chicken legs and cook, turning once until the sides are well browned. It should take 3-5 minutes per side. Remove the legs from the pan and set aside.

image (8)

4. Heat 2 tbsp oil in the tagine on the stove. IMPORTANT NOTE: When using the tagine on the stove be sure to use a difusser! Without the difusser the tagine is likely to crack.

5. Add the onions and saute over medium-high heat. Stir often and cook until they are a nice brown. It should take about 15-17 minutes.

6.  Add the spices and a bit of salt to the onions. Stir for 1 1/2 minutes to toast the spices.

image (9)

7. Return the chicken legs to the tagine, pour in the stock and bring to a boil.

image (7)

8. Cover the tagine and put it in the oven. Cook for 40 minutes. When you remove it from the oven, the chicken should be tender and falling off the bone.

9. Remove the legs from the pan.

10. Return the tagine to a burner and simmer for 3-5 minutes to reduce the sauce. The soft should be thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. If you taste the sauce at this point it will have a little bit of a spicy kick to it.

11. Add the lemon rinds and olives if you’re using them.

12. When the rind and olives are hot whisk in the butter 1 tsbp at a time. Taste the sauce after each tbsp of butter has melted. When I made it, I put all 4 tbsps in at once. It made the sauce more creamy and less spicy. It was delicious, but I wish I had let some of the spiciness remain.

13. Serve chicken and place sauce, onions, lemons, and olives over the chicken.

image (6)This picture might not look all that impressive, but you can see the lemon rind (top middle of the plate), the sauce, onions, and chicken. The flavor was lovely and the chicken was so tender. We ate it over couscous!


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