My friend, Ferenc Horvath, makes traditional Middle Eastern lemons, preserved in brine made from salt and their own juice. Choose the best quality green olives, freshly pitted at home.  This dish is best made in a tagine, a cone-shaped ceramic cooking dish, but you can use a sauté-style pan if you don’t own a tagine.  Serve with couscous, basmati rice or mashed potatoes topped with fresh cilantro.  If you have grouse, feel free to substitute for the chicken.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 ½ lbs. bone-in chicken, cut into pieces
  • ½ tsp saffron threads
  • 1 ½ t. cumin
  • 1 ½ t. Hungarian paprika
  • 1 t. turmeric
  • ½ t. ground ginger
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • ¼ c. extra virgin olive oil or smen—Moroccan preserved butter
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 qt. chicken stock
  • Peel of 2 preserved lemons (or sub fresh lemons), pulp discarded
  • 1 c. pitted green olives, such as picholine
  • ½ c. fresh chopped cilantro for garnish
  • Salt and pepper

Serves 6

DIRECTIONS:

If using chicken, consider buying just the whole leg and thigh pieces. Remove skin from the birds, but not the bone.  Grind the saffron threads into powder using a spice mortar and pestle. Mix saffron powder, cumin, paprika, turmeric, ginger, cayenne pepper and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Rub the spice mixture evenly onto the chicken pieces.

Heat olive oil in your pan over medium high heat. Sauté the onion in the oil till it turns translucent. Add the garlic and continue to sauté till lightly browned. Arrange the bird pieces snugly inside the skillet. Pour chicken stock over the pieces; they should almost be covered with stock. You probably won’t need the entire quart depending on the size of your pan.

Remove pulp from the two preserved. Cut the peel into thin slices and arrange it evenly spaced in the pan.

Bring stock to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer and cover the skillet. Let the birds simmer for 75 minutes, periodically ladling the seasoned stock over the birds, until the meat is fork-tender.

Remove birds from the broth using tongs or a slotted spoon; arrange the pieces on a serving dish. Add olives to the sauce in the skillet. Bring sauce in the skillet to a boil and let it reduce and thicken for a few minutes. Remove skillet from heat and taste the sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve hot on a bed of couscous, basmati rice or mashed potatoes; pour the sauce over the chicken and the starch. Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro. Can also be served with flatbread or pita bread to dip in the sauce.