Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons

I was on hiatus last week due to updates on the backside of my blog. You won't notice any changes to the look, but hopefully those of you who subscribe to Food and Gladness via email will receive my posts more consistently. Thanks to all of you who voted on for my Pickled Asparagus and Carrot Flatbread recipe. As of today, I am unaware of the results.

Last week, the preserved lemons I canned were done brining and ready for use. I think I mentioned that I wanted to try my hand at making Moroccan Chicken, so at long last here it is! I really wish the above picture was scratch and sniff, because it smelled heavenly. I felt like I was transported to a different country. I couldn't believe how simply this dinner came together. The chicken was marinated overnight and on cooking day I only had to brown and simmer it. The recipe called for a whole chicken, but since a whole organic chicken wasn't in stock at the grocery store, I used organic boneless breasts and thighs. This reduced the cooking time to only 30 minutes instead of 40-45.

If you love to cook, definitely head to Penzey's Spices in Maplewood, MO. Mike and I roamed around the store for quite some time discussing all the possibilities we could make with the spices and herbs. This lead me to a splurge purchase of saffron. The tiny bottle of saffron (0.02 oz = 1/2 gram) costs around $10, half the price of gold! You will only need a pinch of it for the rice, so you will have plenty left to use another time. You may not think that a little pinch of a spice would do much to a dish, but it most certainly did.

This dish can be pared down to accommodate a date night dinner for two, or increased for a large family meal. I would recommend rinsing the olives and preserved lemons to remove their salty brine, otherwise the salt will be too overpowering. In searching for a recipe, I did notice some recipes called for the addition of dried fruit (golden raisins and apricots). I didn't use those ingredients, but I image the sweetness would offer a nice counterbalance to the saltiness from the olives and preserved lemons.

I hope you give this dinner a try, Mike gave it two thumbs up! As always, here's to good food and gladness! (May 2, 2014)

Ingredients for Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons- serves 4

  • 3 pounds of chicken: bone-in preferred, but boneless okay. Reduce cooking time if using boneless.

  • 4 large garlic cloves, crushed with back of knife

  • 1 bunch of fresh cilantro, destemmed and rough chopped

  • 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil: 2 tbsp for marinade, 2 tbsp for cooking

  • Spice mix containing 1 teaspoon of each of the following: turmeric, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, cardamom, paprika, ground black pepper

  • 4 whole cloves

  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch + 1 cup water

  • 1/2 cup each black and green olives, rinsed and pitted

  • 1 cup of rinsed and diced preserved lemon rind

  • 1 cup Basmati rice (serves 4)

  • 2.5 cups of water

  • 1 pinch of saffron

Directions for Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons

  1. The night prior to cooking: In a gallon sized zip-top bag, place 2 tablespoons of olive oil, crushed garlic, cilantro, and cloves. Rub all sides of the chicken with the spice mix, then place in the bag. Seal the bag, then shake to coat the chicken in the olive oil. Leave in the bag and marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

  2. On cooking day: In a dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Saute the marinated chicken until golden brown on each side.

  3. Stir cornstarch into 1 cup of warm water. Pour over the browned chicken. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and allow to simmer 20 minutes.

  4. Add the olives, continue to cook for 10 minutes for boneless meat, 20 minutes for bone-in.

  5. Add the preserved lemons, cook 5 additional minutes.

  6. Serve with rice and garnish with fresh cilantro.

Directions for Saffron Rice

  1. Steep a pinch of saffron (about 10 strands) in a half cup of boiling water.

  2. Place 1 cup of rice into a rice cooker with 2 cups water plus the half cup water steeped with saffron. Cook about 20 minutes until liquid evaporated. (Hint: start cooking the rice after you brown the chicken and it begins to simmer.)

  3. Just prior to serving the rice, add 1 tablespoon of butter, toss together.