Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons & Olives from the Source
My Mom spent many years as a book and magazine editor, some of which were focused on food writing. She had some cookbooks lining our shelves, not many, but the ones that she had were cherry picked. She is gone now and it never actually occurred to me to ask her if the books she chose were, in part, because of the writing style. I do know that they were chosen for authenticity. So when I wanted to make a FODMAP version of Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons & Olives I knew that I would go to my shelves and look for my Paula Wolfert books.
How Many Books is Too Many?
Now, I must admit that I do not have the restraint that my Mom had. Or maybe it is simply a logistics thing because she lived in a NYC apartment and I have a country home, but the last time I counted my cookbook library was at about 2,000. Yes, bordering on hoarder scale but what can I say? I read cookbooks like they are novels. There are stacks in the bathroom and stacks next to our bed. A special stack sits on my 6-foot butcher-block counter in the Test Kitchen and another in the Photography Studio.
I have an almost photographic memory when it comes to cookbooks. Mention a recipe and I can picture it, know what book it is from, approximately which page and then be able to find the book amongst the thousands on the shelves – there is no Dewey decimal system here. When my kids were young I would ask them to organize my books by theme for Christmas or my birthday, but they were all smart enough to demure.
Let’s Go To Morocco
Paula Wolfert is regarded as one of the culinary world’s foremost authorities on Moroccan cooking. It is her take on Preserved Lemons that inspired that recipe as well. Alice Water of Chef Panisse once said that Paula was at once both “sensual and scholarly” and I couldn’t agree more. Her recipes are steeped in sense of place always accompanied by colorful descriptions of locale and ingredients.
Her recipes explode with flavor and they always work. And for me they always bring a sense of wonder. It is from reading her books and cooking her food that I have experienced a kaleidoscope of new tastes right in my own kitchen that have excited my palate and intrigued my mind. My father was a world traveler and spoke 8 languages; he always said Morocco was his favorite place of all to visit.
The Aromas of Morocco
Look at the combination of ingredients in the recipe below. The blend of spices – saffron, turmeric, cumin, ginger and cinnamon – might seem unusual. Combined they are indeed heady and fragrant but they are also perfectly balanced by the acidity from the Preserved Lemons as well as lemon juice. This is one dish that I do not salt at all, which is highly unusual. The salt from the Preserved Lemons and the two kinds of olives is plenty. You can of course salt before serving if you like, but restrain yourself from salting the dish early on.
The classic rendition of this dish uses a fair amount of onion and garlic but that was easily remedied with Garlic-Infused Oil and a combo of scallion and leek greens. In the end this recipe was based upon Paula’s writings as well as the one my Mom and Dad made when I was growing up. It is in this way that we can continue to enjoy foods of our childhood and our lives, while taking care of our bodies and staying within low FODMAP diet guidelines. Note that you do need some time for the chicken to marinate, so plan accordingly.
Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons & Olives
The enticing flavors of Morocco in a one-pot chicken dinner.
Makes 8 servings
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons Garlic-Infused Oil, made with olive oil or purchased equivalent, divided
- 3 to 3 1/2 pounds (1.4 to 1.6 kg) of chicken pieces, skin on, bone in (I used a total of 4 thighs and 4 legs)
- 1 cup (72 g) thinly sliced and chopped leeks, green parts only
- 1/2 cup (32 g) thinly sliced scallions, green parts only
- 1 3-inch to 4-inch (7.5 to10 cm) cinnamon stick
- 1/4 cup (34 g) pitted Kalamata olives, halved
- 1/4 cup (34 g) pitted green olives, such as Castelvetrano, halved
- 1 preserved lemon, cut into 1/4-inch (6 mm) strips, pulp and all
- 1 cup (240 ml) Low FODMAP Chicken Stock, homemade or purchased equivalent
- Juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
- Combine paprika, cumin, ginger, turmeric and saffron in a large non-reactive mixing bowl and use fingertips to crush saffron threads and combine spices. Add several generous grinds of black pepper and 2 teaspoons of the Garlic-Infused oil and combine into a paste.
- Add chicken pieces and coat them well with the spice paste. I like to use a silicone spatula to spread it on all sides of the chicken. Let chicken marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and even up to overnight, in which case cover with plastic wrap.
- When ready to cook, place remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and brown chicken, skin side down, until nicely browned and the skin begins to crisp, about 5 minutes. Brown second side then remove chicken to a platter. Turn heat down to medium, add leek and scallion greens and sauté for a few minutes until softened. Bury the cinnamon stick down in the leeks/scallions then place chicken evenly spaced back into pan, skin side up. Scatter both kinds of olives around the chicken, then add sliced preserved lemon scattered here and there as well. Pour stock over all as well as lemon juice.
- Cover, bring to a simmer and cook until chicken is done, about 25 minutes. Chicken is ready to serve but the flavors even improve after being refrigerated overnight. We like to serve this with rice, but you could try quinoa as well. Garnish with chopped parsley right before serving.