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Tender, bold braised chicken inspired by the community ovens of Marrakech
Milk Street Bowtie Lemon-Saffron Chicken (Tangia)

Lemon-Saffron Chicken (Tangia)

Appears in March-April 2018

1 hour

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Lemon-Saffron Chicken (Tangia)

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Tangia—which originates in Marrakech and often is slow-cooked in the community wood-fired ovens that heat bathhouses—is a stew-like dish of fall-apart tender hunks of lamb bathed in a thick, but spare broth rich with saffron, turmeric, cumin, ginger, garlic and lemon. We got a lesson in cooking tangia the traditional way from taxi driver Youssef Boufelja. Lamb is typical, but we use boneless, skinless chicken thighs. In Morocco, preserved lemons lend a gentle acidity, lightening the richness. For an easier version, we get similar flavor from lemon zest and juice—as well as chopped green olives for brininess—added at the end of cooking. Serve with warmed, halved pita bread for scooping up the meat and thickened sauce.

4

Servings

Tip

Don’t reduce the lemon zest or juice. The zest provides both flavor and fragrance, and the juice adds tang and acidity. You'll need 3 to 4 lemons to get 3 tablespoons grated zest; a wand-style grater works best.

1 hour

4 teaspoons ground cumin, divided
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and patted dry
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
12 medium garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed
3 tablespoons salted butter, cut into 3 pieces
1/2 cup pimento-stuffed green olives, chopped
3 tablespoons grated lemon zest, plus ¼ cup lemon juice
Ingredients
  • 4

    teaspoons ground cumin, divided

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

  • 3

    pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and patted dry

  • 2
  • 2

    medium yellow onions, finely chopped

  • 12

    medium garlic cloves, chopped

  • 2

    teaspoons ground turmeric

  • 2

    teaspoons ground ginger

  • 2

    teaspoons ground coriander

  • 1

    teaspoon saffron threads, crushed

  • 3

    tablespoons salted butter, cut into 3 pieces

  • ½

    cup pimento-stuffed green olives, chopped

  • 3

    tablespoons grated lemon zest, plus ¼ cup lemon juice

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Reviews
Cassie H.
June 13, 2022
Worth Making
I bought a tagine, but have never never attempted to use it after discovering this recipe for Tangia. It’s easy to make and so delicious. I use my preserved lemons rather than going to the trouble of preparing lemon zest.
Celeste J.

Made with lamb shank. Do not add all the lemon zest, way too strong

Janelle B.

I have made homemade preserved lemons. I am always looking for dishes to use them in and this seems like an obvious choice. Any tips on quantity and where in the cooking process should I add them?

Janelle C.

Hi Janelle,

Our Recipe Developer, Julia Rackow offered the following advice. Depending on the salt content, start with 2 tbsp minced preserved lemons as you add the saffron in the second step. At the very end when you add the olives and lemon zest and juice you can add more minced preserved in place of the lemon zest and juice or follow the recipe as written.

Best,
The Milk Street Team

Shari M.

I can’t wait to try this using the more traditional lamb. I wish the recipe had specified not just what cut of lamb to use, but any other tips to make it the more ‘authentic’ way. I dare say many of your viewers do eat lamb; additionally, I guess I am lucky in that I can find preserved lemon in multiple stores in my area.

Jaye D.

I made this in the instant pot with a smaller batch of chicken. It worked. You pressure cook for 15 minutes, allow natural release, then use the saute function to concentrate sauce, add lemons and olives at end.

Meriam S.

Thank you for your comment! Your comment is currently under moderation and will appear shortly.

Dawn H.

I recently bought the Moroccan preserved lemons sold on the Milk Street website. In the recipes they recommend using it for, including this LEMON-SAFFRON CHICKEN, they say to add 1-2 Tbs of the preserved lemons for the last 10 minutes of cooking. But is that a substitute for the lemon zest and juice already called for in the recipes? Or should I substitute the preserved lemons for the lemon in the recipe? I love lemons, but it may be too much!

Leslie Price M.

We enjoyed this dish and found the flavor to be even better on day 2. The lemon seemed to have come into its own. Next time, I'll make it with bone-in chicken thighs (with no skin) to add extra depth from the marrow.

Sydney R.

How much preserved lemon would you use ... I have it and would like to use it!!

Lynn C.

Hi Sydney -

Our Recipe Developer, Julia Rackow offered the following advice. Depending on the salt content, start with 2 tbsp minced preserved lemons as you add the saffron in the second step. At the very end when you add the olives and lemon zest and juice you can add more minced preserved in place of the lemon zest and juice or follow the recipe as written.

Best,
The Milk Street Team

Alma R.

Thank you for your comment! Your comment is currently under moderation and will appear shortly.

Santiago N.

Did a half recipe, using half the ingredients. Cut about 5 minutes from each time after you put in the chicken. Added a combination of chopped scallions and parsley at end for Color/flavor. DO NOT skimp on lemon juice and zest; those are key flavor ingredients!

Yaoli Y.

this was delicious so delicious! The lemon zest and lemon juice really made it extra special

Kristin n.

Can this be made a day ahead up to but not including the lemon juice and zest addition...and reheated before serving then adding zest/juice? Would the addition of fresh chopped cilantro at the end be appropriate or compete with other flavors?

Lynn C.

Hi Kristin -

We haven't tested make ahead instructions but I think you are right to leave out the lemon and zest until after reheating. I would also leave out the olives as well. Although you could certainly add cilantro, I don't think the dish needs the flavor. If you're looking for an herb to add I'd stick with parsley, which will add freshness without any competing flavor.

Best,
'The Milk Street Team

Lee H.

I, too, have preserved lemons, and am eager to use them instead of the juice and zest. Many recipes that use preserved lemons call for the rind only. When you say "minced preserved lemons," do you mean rind only? And it appears from the various comments/replies that you would stir in 2 Tbl preserved lemon with the water and saffron, and 2Tbl more at the end. Is that right?

Lynn C.

Hi Lee -

For the preserved lemons added at the beginning of cooking you can add both the peel and the pulp. At the end we would recommend adding a tablespoon or so of minced peel first and see how you like the flavor and then add more as needed.

Best,
The Milk Street Team


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Lemon-Saffron Chicken (Tangia)

Get Ready to Cook

4

Servings

1 hour

Tip

Don’t reduce the lemon zest or juice. The zest provides both flavor and fragrance, and the juice adds tang and acidity. You'll need 3 to 4 lemons to get 3 tablespoons grated zest; a wand-style grater works best.

Ingredients
  • 4

    teaspoons ground cumin, divided

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

  • 3

    pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and patted dry

  • 2
  • 2

    medium yellow onions, finely chopped

  • 12

    medium garlic cloves, chopped

  • 2

    teaspoons ground turmeric

  • 2

    teaspoons ground ginger

  • 2

    teaspoons ground coriander

  • 1

    teaspoon saffron threads, crushed

  • 3

    tablespoons salted butter, cut into 3 pieces

  • ½

    cup pimento-stuffed green olives, chopped

  • 3

    tablespoons grated lemon zest, plus ¼ cup lemon juice

Step 1 of 4

Season the chicken

2
teaspoons ground cumin
2
teaspoons kosher salt
3
pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and patted dry

In a small bowl, stir together 1 teaspoon of the cumin and 1 teaspoon salt. Set aside. Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper.

Step 2 of 4

Cook and coat the chicken

2
tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2
medium yellow onions, finely chopped
12
medium garlic cloves, chopped
3
teaspoons ground cumin
2
teaspoons ground turmeric
2
teaspoons ground ginger
2
teaspoons ground coriander
cups water
1
teaspoon saffron threads, crushed

In a large Dutch oven over medium-high, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.


Add the remaining 3 teaspoons cumin, the turmeric, ginger and coriander, then cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in 1½ cups water and the saffron, scraping up any browned bits.


Nestle the chicken into the liquid, turning to coat. Cover, reduce to medium-low and cook for 20 minutes at a gentle simmer.

Step 3 of 4

Turn and cover

Using tongs, turn the chicken. Cover and cook until tender, another 25 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a plate.


Bring the liquid in the pot to a simmer over medium-high and cook, stirring, until thickened, 10 to 14 minutes.

Step 4 of 4

Return to the pot, season and serve

3
tablespoons salted butter, cut into 3 pieces
½
cup pimento-stuffed green olives, chopped
3
tablespoons grated lemon zest, plus ¼ cup lemon juice
Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Return the chicken to the pot and stir. The chicken will break up a bit. Off heat, add the butter, stirring until melted, then stir in the olives and lemon zest and juice.


Taste and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a platter and serve with the cumin-salt mixture to sprinkle over, to taste.

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