Tasting Table National: Mourad's Chicken with Preserved Lemons

Recipe adapted from Mourad: New Moroccan by Mourad Lahlou (Ten Speed Press)

Roast Chicken With Preserved Lemons And Root Vegetables
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Chicken with Preserved Lemons from Mourad: New Moroccan by Mourad Lahlou
Servings
6
to 8 servings
Ingredients
  • Brine
  • 4 quarts cold water
  • ¾ granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ cups kosher salt
  • 2 lemons, cut into quarters
  • 1 cup cracked green olives, with their brine
  • 12 flat-leaf parsley sprigs
  • 3 tablespoons sliced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon Tellicherry peppercorns
  • 8 thyme sprigs
  • 10 grams bay leaves
  • 4 quarts ice cubes
  • Chicken
  • 2 air-chilled chickens (3½ pounds each) excess fat removed
  • 3 Preserved Lemons
  • 8 thyme sprigs
  • Kosher salt
  • Vegetables
  • 12 medium turnips, peeled and halved
  • 3 small rutabagas, peeled and quartered
  • 4 small parsnips, peeled and cut into 1½-inch pieces
  • 12 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1½-inch pieces
  • 8 cipollini onions, about 1 ½ inches in diameter, peeled and trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons coarsely chopped thyme
  • 18 garlic cloves
  • Kosher salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 tablespoon preserved lemon liquid
  • 2 teaspoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Optional Ingredients
  • 12 spiced prunes (optional)
Directions
  1. For the brine: In a 10- to 12-quart stockpot, heat the water until simmering. Add the brine ingredients (except the ice) and stir to dissolve the sugar and salt. Turn off the heat and let the brine sit at room temperature for 20 minutes to infuse the flavors. Add the ice to chill the brine. If the brine isn't completely cold, refrigerate it until it is. Add the chickens to the cold brine and weight them with a plate or smaller pot lid to keep them submerged. Refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours.
  2. For the chickens: Cut the preserved lemons into quarters. Cut the flesh away from the rinds and reserve both the rinds and flesh. Remove the chickens from the brine, rinse and dry them well with paper towels. Place 1 chicken on a work surface with the legs facing you. Starting at the cavity, work the handle of a wooden spoon between the skin and one breast to create a pocket, working slowly and gently to avoid tearing the skin. Repeat on the other side. Holding the chicken in place with one hand, slide the index and middle fingers of your other hand into each pocket to enlarge it, then slide your fingers down to create a pocket over the thigh. Repeat with the second chicken.
  3. Insert the pieces of preserved lemon rind, with the pith facing down, and the thyme sprigs into the pockets over the thighs and breasts. Sprinkle the cavities with salt, and rub the chickens with the reserved flesh from the preserved lemons.
  4. Truss the chickens: Position 1 chicken breast side up, with the legs facing you. Cut a vertical slit in one side, about 1 inch back from the cavity, alongside the thigh. Cross the end of the opposite drumstick over the drumstick on this side and poke the end of the top drumstick through the slit. (Depending on the condition of the chicken's skin, it may rip as you try to poke the drumstick through it, so have some kitchen twine on hand just in case, and tie the legs together if necessary.) Repeat with the other chicken. Sprinkle the chickens with salt.
  5. Preheat the oven to 500°F. In a large bowl, combine the turnips, rutabagas, parsnips, carrots, onions, olive oil, thyme, garlic and 3 pinches of salt. Toss so that the vegetables are well-coated in the oil. Spread the vegetables in a large roasting pan. Put a roasting rack in the pan and set the chickens breast side up on it, leaving a space between the chickens. They should rest just above the vegetables, not touching them.
  6. Place the pan in the oven and roast for 15 minutes. Spread the room-temperature butter over the breasts. Roast for another 30 minutes. Add the prunes, if you are using them, to the pan and roast the chickens for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until the skin is richly browned and the temperature in the meatiest sections registers 160°. Remove the pan from the oven and put the chickens on a carving board to rest for 20 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, remove the rack, set the roasting pan on the stove so that it spans two burners, and bring the cooking liquid to a simmer. Whisk in the preserved lemon liquid and simmer for 2 minutes. Stir in the butter bit by bit to thicken the sauce and glaze the vegetables. Stir in the parsley.
  8. Present the chickens whole or carved, arrange over the vegetables in the roasting pan or on a large platter.
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