Moroccan Chicken with Lemon and Olives (Djef Makalli)
A classic dish with extraordinary flavor from mainstays of Moroccan cuisine: preserved lemon and olives.Traditionally cooked in a clay pot called a Tagine, the pot definitely isn't necessary. We've paired it with quick cooking couscous, also using preserved lemon. Make your own preserved lemon (recipes abound on the 'net) or skip the step with a delicious product from Howie's, Authentic Moroccan Preserved Lemon Puree produced by Casablanca Market. Our dish is adapted from Couscous and Other Good Food from Morroco by Paula Wolfert.
1 chicken, cut into 6 pieces*
2 chicken livers
7 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
1 tsp Kosher salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp black pepper, preferably freshly ground
1/4 tsp saffron
2 TB Casablanca Market Lemon Puree (see headnote) plus quick 'preserved' lemon peels, rinsed (instructions below);
the lemon peels are mostly for decoration, so they can be optional.
or 1 preserved lemon rinsed. You'll be using both the pulp (puree) and peel.
1/4 cup oil (it can be a neutral oil but we use olive oil for just about everything)
1/2 cup grated onion, drained
6 springs fresh cilantro, tied together for easy removal
1/2 cup "red/brown" olives such as Kalamata or Gaeta, pitted
*We often favor using chicken thighs and for ourselves used 4 chicken thighs weighing about 1 1/2 lbs. For the overnight brining step we used 3/4 tsp Kosher salt and 4 garlic cloves, mashed.
Dry Brining: Salting the chicken in advance improves flavor. Two days prior to eating, mash or finely chop 4 cloves of garlic and mix with the salt. Carefully pry up the skin and rub the mixture best you can under the skin, leaving some to rub on top of the skin. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Marinating: One day prior to eating, in a blender or mini food processor combine the ginger, pepper, saffron, 3 cloves garlic, lemon pureee or pulp of the preserved lemon (reserving peel if using lemon instead of lemon puree) and oil. (You can even use a mortar and pestle: grind the dry ingredients, then mash in the garlic, then add the puree and oil.)
Rub the mixture over all the chicken (including under the skin) and the chicken livers. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
The next day put the sauce covered chicken and livers into a pot. Add the onion, cilantro and 2 1/2 cups water (NOTE: removing loose cilantro isn't a big deal if you want to skip the tying them together step). Stir and bring to a boil. Partially cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes, turning the chicken pieces every so often.
Remove the livers and chicken pieces. Mash the livers and return to the pot. Add the lemon peel and olives.
Boil rapidly until the sauce is reduced to a very thick (but spoonable) gravy. Remove the cilantro.
Place the chicken pieces under a broiler and brown them. The broiler should be quite hot so that you can quickly brown the chicken without cooking it much further.
Spoon the liquid part of the sauce over the chicken. Garnish with the lemon peels (if using) and olives that were in the sauce and serve immediately.
We like to serve it over Preserved Lemon Flavored Couscous, recipe below.
Quick "Preserved" Lemon Peel
Store bought lemons may have had edible wax applied. Wash the lemon well, halve it lengthwise, then cut it into about 3/8" slices. Place in a small pot, add water to cover and about 1 TB of salt. Bring to boil then simmer until the peels are soft. Of course this isn't really Preserved Lemon, but in a pinch, does the job. Don't throw away the rest of the boiled lemon, it makes a tasty accompaniment to all sorts of things.
Nothing could be simpler. Quick cooking couscous is done in about 5 minutes. Our recipe follows the instructions of the couscous we used. Take note of the instructions on whatever you purchase.) Serves 2 to 4 depending on appetite.
1 cup quick cooking couscous
1 cup chicken stock or water
Salt to taste (depends a lot on amount of salt in the stock)
1/3 cup frozen peas
1 TB butter (more or less to taste)
1 TB preseved lemon puree without peel
Combine all the ingredients. Bring to a boil. Cover and remove from heat. Let sit 5 minutes. Stir and serve.
We had a good, dry, Sauvignon Blanc.