exactly a year ago today, i trekked out to east elmhurst, queens to meet a friend of mine, Koutar, so she could teach me how to make one of her favorite dishes: djaj mhamer. little did i know, a few months later, i would be traveling through morocco with her, trying different variations of this very, very delicious dish. djaj mhamer is a moroccan dish that translates to reddened chicken. the chicken is first marinated in herbs, then poached in a medley of caramelized onions and spices, and finally roasted on high heat, owning to its name, djaj mhamer.
in my opinion, this dish is best served communally with lots of nice toasty baguettes (or if you’re lucky, some moroccan kubz baladi) to dip into the luscious sauce. there is a blessing in eating together, after all.
the following is koutar’s recipe, with some modifications. enjoy!
5 medium chicken legs (thighs and drumstick attached), skin on (you could subsitute a small whole chicken if you prefer)
1 small onion, minced finely
3 cloves of garlic, minced finely
1 cup of parsley, minced finely
1 cup of cilantro, minced finely
2 tbsp of olive oil
1/4 a cup of lemon juice
1/2 tsp of minced ginger
1 tsp salt and pepper
(the above is the chicken marinade)
3 large onions, minced
4 cloves of garlic, minced finely
1 tsp of ginger powder
1 tsp of turmeric
dash of saffron in warm water
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup of blanched green olives (to remove excessive salt)
marinate the chicken for 2 hours or more. add three minced onions to a heated pan with olive oil. when the onions are caramelized, add the garlic cloves, turmeric and ginger powder. add the saffron slurry, red pepper flakes and additional water (up to you to decide). place the marinated chicken into the pan, cover and allow to simmer/poach. in the mean time, preheat the oven to 400F. remove the chicken from the pan and place on a greased baking pan/tagine (mine hasn’t been seasoned, so i don’t bake in it just yet). add slices of butter on top of the chicken and bake until the it browns/reddens (making sure to flip the chicken and ensure an even reddening). as the chicken is baking, continue to simmer the onion and spice mixture until it has a gravy-like consistency; at this point, add the blanched green olives. fry/bake the french fries (homemade or store-bought, your discretion).
when ready to serve, place the chicken on your serving platter, or leave in the tagine and top with the thickened sauce. either serve the french fries on the side or among the chicken with the sauce on top (i personally prefer it this way, the fries soak up all the sauce!)
optional toppings: sliced hard boiled eggs, poached almonds (whole or slithered), and chopped cilantro.
in fes, morocco. koutar’s lovely mama’s delicious djaj mhamer; may God bless her hands.