Tasting Table National: Paula's Chicken with Preserved Lemons

Recipe adapted from The Food of Morocco by Paula Wolfert (Harper Collins)

Chicken With Preserved Lemons, Soft Black Olives And Nigella Seeds
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Recipe adapted from The Food of Morocco by Paula Wolfert (Harper Collins)
  • One 3-pound chicken, quartered, backbone and wings removed
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 2 teaspoons nigella seeds, toasted and divided
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons saffron water
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 small tomatoes, peeled, halved, seeded, and diced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro, divided
  • Juice of 1 lemon, or to taste
  • 12 Kalamata or Gaeta olives, pitted, soaked in water to remove excess salt and vinegar, and drained
  • 1 preserved lemon, pulp removed, rind rinsed and quartered
  1. Rinse the chicken quarters and pat dry; trim away any excess fat. Slide your fingers under the skin to loosen it from the flesh.
  2. Using a mortar and pestle, crush the garlic, half the nigella seeds and the salt to a paste. Mix in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Rub this mixture under and over the skin of the chicken.
  3. Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken pieces and fry, turning occasionally, until they are golden brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Push the chicken to one side of the skillet and carefully tilt the skillet to the other side, and use a spoon to remove almost all the fat.
  4. Spread out the chicken pieces, flesh side down, and add the onion. Cover and steam for 5 minutes. Add 1 scant cup of hot water, the saffron water, ginger and pepper and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 20 minutes. Remove the chicken breasts to a side dish. Cover to keep moist.
  5. Add the potatoes, tomatoes, the remaining nigella seeds and half the cilantro to the sauce in the pan. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes and chicken legs are fully cooked.
  6. Return the chicken breasts to the skillet and reheat. Season the sauce with lemon juice to taste, and baste the chicken with the sauce. Garnish with the olives, the preserved lemon wedges and the remaining cilantro, and serve directly from the pan.
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