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My cousin Seth gives me the best presents. Whether it’s a small bar of special chocolate or a pretty picture, he knows my tasteand what I would appreciate. When he came back from a trip to Morocco over a decade ago, he presented me with this cookbook, Moroccan Jewish Cookery. I’ve always loved it, but more for reading than for its practical use.
When MarocMama and I decided that my guestpost should center on cooking a recipe from the book, I had to look at in a whole new light. What to do about directions that don’t make sense in my American kitchen? (Turn the oven to “gas 6?”)
And, what to do about directions that assume a Moroccan set of measuring implements? (How much is a “glass” of water or oil?) Then there is the matter of all the recipes that use tripe, brains, and sheep and ox. My answer was to take a chicken recipe in the book that uses two ingredients I love, preserved lemons and olives, and make it my own.
This version, adapted from Moroccan Jewish Cookery, is quick and simple. It has a small amount of lovely, fragrant sauce to spoon over the chicken and reheats well. The only ingredients you probably won’t find in American grocery stores are the preserved lemon, which you can easily make yourself, and saffron. Here is a good guide for how to make preserved lemons.
I made a batch a few months ago, and used one of them for this recipe. As for saffron, it is a rather expensive spice, sold in stores that have East Asian, Spanish or North African foods. I had some and used it, but I am not sure that it is essential.
Chicken with Olives and Preserved Lemon – serves 2 (easily doubles)
- ½ chicken cut into parts
- 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole
- ¼ teaspoon of saffron, crushed
- 4-6 ounces of water
- 4-6 ounces of pitted Kalamata olives, mashed slightly (I used my grandmother’s mortar & pestle, though I admit the olives, packed in olive oil, were a bit tough to “catch”. Mashing them with the back of a knife might be less romantic, but probably more practical way to mash them.)
- ½ of a preserved lemon, rinsed well, with inside removed, then sliced and finely chopped
- Salt and pepper
- ½ of a fresh lemon, to sprinkle on at the end
- Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pan that has a lid. (The lid is needed for the last step in cooking.)
- Sauté the chicken pieces and garlic cloves for 5-10 minutes until the chicken is lightly browned.
- Add the crushed saffron, and about 4-6 ounces of water. Cook on a low heat for approximately 10 minutes.
- Add the olives and chopped preserved lemons, and salt and pepper to taste, partially cover the pan, raise the heat to medium and continue cooking for approximately 20-30 minutes, until the chicken is done. (I didn’t add any salt during cooking, but sprinkled a bit on when we ate.) If necessary add more water – the pan should always have liquid at the bottom.
- Serve with rice and salad, accompanied by a wedge of lemon for sprinkling lemon juice over the chicken just before eating.