This dish was inspired by a love of Paula Wolfert and the journeys she’s taken countless home cooks on since the early 70’s. Sometimes I stop everything to just pour over her recipes and daydream. I eventually brought a tagine vessel along for the ride.
You’ll need to think ahead a little for this dish because the chicken needs to be marinated. Start by making a paste of the garlic. Mince it until pretty well broken down. At that point, add 2 teaspoons of salt and mince and mash some more until it starts to get sticky and unbearably fragrant. Now grate the ginger and mince the cilantro and parsley. Add all this to the garlic paste and mash it all together. This works well with a mortar & pestle, but if you don’t have one, just put all of it onto a cutting board and mince it all up, also rubbing the tang of the knife over it every now and then to encourage it to become a paste. Plop it into a bowl and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Line the chicken up in a shallow casserole and rub the spice paste all over, rubbing it underneath the skin and all around. Refrigerate and let marinate for at least 4 hours, but up to 2 days.
When you’re ready to cook, take the chicken out of the fridge for about 30 minutes while you prepare the tomato jam. Combine the whole jar of sundried tomatoes (including the oil), drained tomatoes and 1 teaspoon of salt in a food processor and puree until pretty smooth. Put this mixture in a medium saucepan over medium heat and let it simmer until sticky and reduced by half, about 30 minutes. Make sure you stir occasionally so the paste doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot and burn. While the tomatoes are cooking, put a pinch of saffron in 2 tablespoons of hot water and let it steep for at least 20 minutes. Remove the tomato jam from the heat and add saffron water, cinnamon, turmeric, black pepper, nutmeg, and honey.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Scatter the sliced red onions on the bottom of an11 to 12-inch tagine or similar sized dutch oven. Pour the tomato jam over the onions. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice onto the tomato and onion mixture. Toss to coat. Nestle the chicken on top, skin side up, and cover with the lid. I suggest putting the tagine on a half sheet pan to collect any juices or oils that run over. Cook in the preheated oven for1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours until the juices of the chicken run clear, and the onions are soft and sauce-like.
Uncover the tagine and raise the heat to broil for about 5 minutes until the skin crisps up and starts to brown on top.
To serve, add a dollop of yogurt, then jauntily scatter the almonds, dates, and reserved cilantro over the top.
Savor with delight and gratitude.