When life gives me preserved lemons like the ones I happened upon at Trader Joe’s yesterday, and when Whole Foods has a special on Bell & Evans whole air-chilled chickens for 1/2 price, I can feel a Moroccan chicken dinner in my future.
Moroccan, Tunisian, North African – whatever you choose to call it – the spice profile of this cuisine calls to me often enough that my supply of essential spices is always available. Cinnamon, turmeric, cardamom, coriander, cumin, cloves, ras al hanout, and of course fresh garlic, ginger root and shallots. Preserving lemons takes planning and patience, even with some quickie methods I’ve found in a pinch. Diced fresh lemon can also be used if necessary, but they’ll retain the acidity that preserving leaches out. This little jar of preserved lemon slices for under $3 is something I hope TJ’s keeps in stock, because once you find something there that you love it can disappear without notice based on “supplier” issues.
The whole chickens necessitated a major adaptation of recipes in my collection, which I usually make with just thighs, either boneless or on the bone with skin. The finished dish is now sitting in my kitchen waiting for the basmati rice and Fatoush salad to go-with. The aromas will keep me inspired!
MOROCCAN CHICKEN WITH PRUNES, FIGS, OLIVES & PRESERVED LEMON
(2 thighs, 2 drumsticks, 2 wings, and each half breast cut in two)
2 T extra virgin olive oil + a bit more for sautéing the chicken
1 large garlic clove minced
1 T minced ginger root
1 t turmeric
1 t cinnamon
¾ t cardamom
¾ t coriander
1 t ras al hanout (optional)
½ t kosher salt
½ t freshly ground black pepper
½ cup minced shallots
16 small black mission figs, halved
12 small pitted prunes
handful of green olives with pits (such as Castelvetrano or picholine)
1 medium-large sweet onion coarsely chopped
½ cup white wine or Vermouth
1 cup chicken broth
½ cup diced preserved lemons
1 T honey
Optional: Finely chopped cilantro and/or parsley for garnish
Early in the day, toss the cut up chicken with the olive oil in a large high-sided dish, such as a 13×9 baking dish. Combine the next 9 ingredients in a small bowl and rub all over the chicken. Add the next 4 ingredients and toss to combine. Refrigerate until ready to cook.
Preheat a large electric skillet on medium, add another 1-2 T olive oil, brush the solids off the chicken, leaving everything else in your dish. Brown the chicken on all sides until skin is nicely browned, and remove to a plate. Deglaze the pan with the wine or Vermouth, add the chopped onion, and sauté briefly to soften. Add the chicken broth, bring to a boil, then stir in the shallot/fig/prune/olive mixture and the diced preserved lemon. Return the chicken and any juices to the pan, turn to coat with the sauce, reduce heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes.
Remove chicken while you reduce the sauce with the 1T of honey, then return to the pan to keep warm for serving. Garnish with finely chopped cilantro and/or parsley if desired.