Aside from harira, and salatat bangar, our old Moroccan babysitter introduced me to preserved lemons. I had no idea what they were, and thought it sounded nasty. My dad used to always eat pickled Indian lemons (super spicy and potent), but this is nothing like that. These are simple: miniature lemons, preserved in salt water, no added spices or preservatives. Just pure lemon, resulting in awesomeness. The pickled rind gives the lemon a unique tangy flavor that cannot be replicated by using regular lemon. It isn’t quite as tart as a lemon, nor acidic. You just have to try it because I seriously am at a loss for adjectives to describe it!
I have never been to Morocco but it is on my top 3 list of places I want to explore. I know that the beautiful mountains surrounding Morocco allow for cool summer evenings. The flavors of this dish- saffron and ginger – are definitively Moroccan, and perfectly complement the traditional Middle Eastern cumin flavor. Tagine dishes are perfect to warm your household with the pleasant scents of North Africa. It is cooling down here in the UAE -meaning it was 87 the other morning, and I thought there was a slight chill in the air – ha!
So I bought my favorite kitchen tool, my tagine, from the Le Crueset outlet in Northern Virginia. The tagine really brings out the flavors of the dish while keeping the meat particularly moist. It is incredibly versatile, as you can make everything in it – from meat to eggs, to vegetable tagines. I definitely recommend this one because of the cast iron bottom, rather than the usual clay bottom that can often seep dangerous chemicals depending on the glaze used- ick.
I should add, there is one caveat to using preserved lemons: you must rinse and slice them. I forgot to do so this last time around, and my mom keeps mentioning how salty the dish was, especially since the olives only add more salt to the dish! So note to self – don’t forget to rinse.
Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons and Olives
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
6 bone-in chicken thighs (or 2 large chicken breasts cut up)
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
2 preserved lemons, rinsed and cut into quarters
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp salt
Pinch of saffron threads
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup chopped olives (I prefer a black and green mix)
- Wash chicken and pat dry.
- In a small food processor, puree half of the onion with the garlic, cumin, black pepper, turmeric, ginger, salt and saffron threads. You will have a yellowish brown paste. Save the other half the onion for later.
- Add the marinade to the chicken and make sure all of the chicken is covered in the mix. Add one of the quartered preserved lemons. If you are preparing this ahead of time, you can let this marinate in the refrigerator. Otherwise, let us sit at room temperature while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Either way, I prefer to cook the chicken at room temperature.
- Cut the other half of the onion into slices.
- In a tagine (or large saucepan with lid), heat 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, and cook until translucent.
- Add the chicken and lightly sauté.
- Once the chicken has nicely browned, add 1/2 of water, the other preserved lemon (rinsed, and cut into quarters).
- Cover, and reduce heat to low. Let simmer for at least 30 minutes.
- The sauce will thicken. If it seems too dry, go ahead and add 1/4 cup more of water. Add the cilantro and olives, and let simmer for another 5-10 minutes.
- Serve with warm rice or couscous. Enjoy!!