Chicken with Preserved Lemons and Olives is a classic Moroccan dish. Salty, lemony and zesty, it’s one of my personal favorites. Saffron is optional, but a delicious, fragrant addition.
This recipe is for conventional stove top preparation in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot. The trick to this method is two-fold:
1) Don’t add any water during the cooking. 2) reduce the sauce until the onions are a thick mass.
This dish can also be made by cooking in a traditional tagine or slow-roasting in the oven. The last method is useful when serving a large group of people.
• 1 whole chicken, skin removed, cut into pieces
• 1/3 cup vegetable oil (or a mix of vegetable oil and olive oil)
• 2 very large white or yellow onions (1 lb or ½ kg), sliced as thinly as possible
• one small handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
• one small handful of fresh parsley, chopped
• 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or pressed
• 2 teaspoons ginger
• 1 teaspoon pepper
• 1 teaspoon turmeric (or 1/4 teaspoon Moroccan yellow colorant)
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled (divided – optional)
• 1 teaspoon smen (Moroccan preserved butter – optional)
• 1 handful green or red olives, or mixed
• 1 preserved lemon, quartered and seeds removed
Cook the Chicken
Mix everything except half of the saffron, olives, and lemon in a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven. Cover the pot, and cook the chicken over medium heat, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes, until the chicken is very tender and almost ready to fall off the bones (approximately one hour, but longer if using a free range chicken). Keep the heat adjusted so that the chicken doesn’t scorch, and try not to add water as you cook; the chicken will braise in its own juices.
When the chicken is cooked, transfer it to a plate and cover.
Reduce the Sauce
Continue cooking the onion mixture and sauce over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the liquids evaporate and the onions form a blended mass which separates from the oils.
Add the preserved lemon, olives, the rest of the saffron, and a few tablespoons of water, and simmer gently for 5 to 10 minutes. Return the chicken to the pot, and heat through.
Serve the Chicken
Place the chicken on a serving platter, pour the onion sauce over the top and sides, and garnish the top of the chicken with the quartered lemon and some olives. Serve with French Fries (Fritas:) and crusty bread to soak up the sauce.