It’s hard to admit for a French and perfect patriot like me, but I owe you to tell the vérité, the entire vérité, and just the vérité…
Sometimes the best French food is not French.
Well… It’s French… In the way that millions of Français cook it on a regular basis and consider it part of their cultural heritage.
But it wasn’t developed in the strict Hexagon formed by our borders.
Tagine de poulet
4 chicken breast or thighs or mixed.
(Or half a cut chicken)
1 diced Onion
1 diced garlic clove
1 tbsp diced fresh ginger
1 cup chicken broth
Tajine or Tagine, is a North African tradition, but it’s on the top list of French people favorite dishes. Pourquoi ? Well because a huge part of our population comes from Maghreb.
There are second, third generation of families who immigrated in France when there was a lack of hands to work in the factories (Yes, I’m told that such a time has really existed, as incroyable as it now seems).
There are also descendants of French people who lived in North Africa before the independence. They're called the pieds noirs, litteraly black feet. Don't ask me why, I've got one at home and I can guarantee he has nice and clean (and white) feet.
She’s French, and lives in LA like me, but her mom was born in Morocco.
When she came to visit her daughter a few months ago, the first thing she did was to cook this dish and invite all her friends to taste it.
Miam miam !
Dice the onion, let it sweat in olive oil in a cast iron pan (or a tagine if you have one)
Add the chicken, make sure the skin slowly changes color, and then add the sliced vegetables.
There are many combinations you can use (small peas and artichoke, preserved lemon and olives, almonds and prunes, dates...).
But there's only one ingredient wich will always make the difference:
it's the magical
Ras el Hanout.
This is one of my most precious secret weapon.
Whenever I go to France, I always come back with this very special blend I buy at the market in Capbreton, where my brother lives.
This is the yellow one, with cilantro, turmeric, caraway seed, fennel, red hot chili peppers, cumin, garlic.
Ras el Hanout means "top of the shelf", because it's the best spices you can find in a grocery store. If you can't find any in your poor, non French supermarket, I guess you can try and make your own blend, like any north african housewife does at home...
Spray the magic and take a good breath.
I'm sure if you close well your eyes, you can walk straight in the narrow streets of the Kasbah of Algiers.
Or heading to a Shishah bar in the Goutte d'or in Paris.
Add enough chicken broth to cover the vegetables. Cover the pot.
Set to low, or even sim, for 1 hour.
Now, pour yourself a thé à la menthe or an Orangina,
You have 60 minutes to listen to Enrico Macias and pretend you're a pied noir nostalgic of Constantine...
Or imagine you're a young beur (a French guy whose parents were immigrants...) who doesn't want to leave his projects apartment for the summer and go to the traditional holidays with his family in Algeria, like this song from parisian band 113...
Lé le la!
And when you're ready,
Serve with some couscous you will cook with the broth remaining in the tagine.
Bon appétit les amis!!!