Monday, February 14, 2011

Moroccan Chicken with Green Olives and Preserved Lemons

This is a classic Moroccan dish...chicken braised with olives and lemons.  Remember a couple of months ago when I made those preserved lemons?

Well this is the perfect recipe in which to use them.  It may seem difficult, but it's really not.  There are a number of steps to follow and the most important thing is to read through the recipe and make sure you have everything prepped before you begin.  It's not hard at all; just a bit of work but so worth the effort.  It's a great dish to make on a cold, lazy Sunday afternoon.  The familiar taste of chicken braised in a sweet onion-based sauce combined with the exotic flavor combination of ginger, cumin, red pepper, saffron and salty preserved lemons make this dish truly yummy.  I really do hope you try this one.

But first, here's what the preserved lemons look like after they have been curing for about three months:

When using these in any dish, remove and discard the pulp, rinse in cool running water and use only the rind.  Taste them...they are really delicious...salty and very tasty!

Moroccan Chicken with Green Olives and Preserved Lemons
Adapted from All About Braising by Molly Stevens

The Spice Mix
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika or sweet Hungarian paprika
1/8 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

In small bowl, stir spice mix ingredients together and set aside.

The Braise
1/2 cup green olives in brine, such as Lucques, not pitted.
     Cover olives with cool water and set aside to soak while you prep everything else.

One 3 1/2 to 4 pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces; wing tips, back, neck and giblets reserved
      Or you can use 2 3/4 pounds legs and thigh
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Coarse salt
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3/4 cup water
1 lemon halved
1/4 cup mixed chopped flat leaf parsley and cilantro
1 whole Salt-Preserved Lemon, pulp discarded and peels rinsed in cool water, and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

1.  Rinse the chicken pieces with cool water and dry thoroughly or they won't brown well.  Heat oil and butter in a large deep-sided skillet (4-quart capacity) over medium heat.  While oil and butter heat, season chicken pieces lightly with salt keeping in mind the olives and preserve lemons will add saltiness.  When the butter is sizzling, add the salted chicken pieces, skin side down and sear, without disturbing, until the skin is crisp and evenly browned, about 4-6 minutes.  Turn with tongs and brown the second side.

Remove browned chicken pieces to platter or tray to catch any drippings.  Repeat with second batch of chicken, transferring browned chicken to same platter.

2.  Pour off all but about 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan and return pan to medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic and stir with a wooden spoon and saute until the vegetables begin to soften, about 3-5 minutes.  Add the spice mix and stir; saute for another minute or so.

3.  Add the water to deglaze the pan and stir, scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon to dislodge and dissolve the flavorful cooked on crust.

4.  When the water returns to a boil, return the chicken legs, thighs, back and wings to the pan.  Cover, reduce the heat to low and braise the chicken for 10 minutes.  Uncover the pan and if the liquid is simmering too forcefully, lower the heat to a quiet simmer or set a heat diffuser under the pan.  Turn the legs, wings and thighs over and place the chicken breast pieces on top of the legs and wings.  Adding the chicken breasts after 10 minutes prevents them from overcooking and drying out.

Squeeze the juice from one lemon half over the chicken and sprinkle over half the chopped herbs.  Continue to braise gently for 20 more minutes.

5.  After the chicken has braised for a total of 30 minutes, lift the lid, add the olives and preserved lemons and turn the chicken pieces again.

6.  Replace the lid and continue to braise until the juices from the legs run clear with pierced with the tip of a knife, another 10-15 minutes (for a total of 40-45 minutes).  Transfer the chicken pieces to a serving platter to catch the juices, discard the back and wing tips.  Cover the chicken loosely with foil to keep warm.

7.  Increase the heat under the braising liquid to medium high and bring to a boil.  Squeeze in the juice from the other half of the lemon and simmer sauce until it reduces just a bit, about 5 minutes.  Add the remaining herbs, taste for salt and pepper.  Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve.  Couscous is traditionally served with this dish.

 Buon Appetito!

1 comment:

  1. It looks delicious...I don't think I'd get my kids to eat this though...this will be one to save for the empty nester phase of life ;) Btw, thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful comments on my blog...when I started blogging I really thought I'd just be talking to myself and it is so nice to know people read and enjoy the blog.