It’s getting cooler and darker here so I pulled out the unglazed tagine and improvised a highly unauthentic (i.e., non-Mediterranean) tagine of chicken with habaneros, cayenne peppers and olives.
I gently warmed a quarter-cup of olive oil in the tagine over a flame tamer on medium heat. Sauteed two cloves of minced garlic, one minced orange habanero and one minced medium-hot long Indian green chile until garlic changed color.
Added a mixture of 1 tsp each ground cumin, black pepper, sweet paprika, and 1/2 tsp each ground Ceylonese cinnamon and Indian medium-hot dried red chiles, and sauteed briefly.
Then added a couple tablespoons tomato paste and sauteed for a bit.
Added 3/4 cup hot water and 1/2 tsp salt, brought to a boil, added 3 chicken thighs and a big long green cayenne pepper, quartered the long way. Brought to a boil again, then covered simmered for one hour, turning chicken halfway, adding olives about 10 minutes before the end.
Removed thighs and crisped them in 450-degree oven. Meanwhile removed olives and peppers from sauce, boiled it down in a saucepan, degreased. Returned everything to tagine for another 10-minute simmer, followed by 5 minutes sitting off heat, covered.
Garnished with fresh flat parsley (more of a critical ingredient to this preparation than you might think).
I’d say it was a pretty unqualified success – I wish I’d had better olives and only added them at the end. And I think pimentón de la vera would have added a nice smokiness in place of, or in addition to, the sweet paprika. The interesting part is that the final result was not that spicy, even though that habanero packs a punch (and was supplemented by the other chiles) – the essential sour fruitiness of the habanero was there, but much of the sharp capsicum impact had dissipated somehow. Next time I’ll use more.
Final point – it is remarkable how the unglazed tagine adds a flavor of its own. Of course this is the whole point of unglazed tagines – the seasoning – but I wonder whether sometimes I want the slow-cooking properties of earthenware without that particular flavor (which I can’t quite pinpoint – some combination of the clay and all the dishes that have cooked in it previously). An excuse to buy a glazed tagine.