Preserved lemon chicken with olives

One of my craziest friends (believe me, that is some stiff competition) sent me a recipe from Fine Cooking that she claimed was a) delicious, b) quick, and c) neither pasta nor soup.

I got the hint.

I messed around with it a bit, but just the specifics, not the big picture. I pretty much doubled all the spices, used more herbs, used two preserved lemons instead of one (you don’t develop this “how to make preserved lemons” without ending up with too many preserved lemons sitting around; I need to use them with abandon). I also used all one cut of chicken so they would cook evenly. Feel free to mix it up if your family has white meat-only and dark meat-only people making your life difficult.

When I make it again, I’m going to chop a bulb fennel and add it with the onion. If you beat me to it, let me know how tasty it is.

Preserved lemon chicken with olives
I used thighs for this, but any chicken breasts would work just fine – bone-in, boneless, skinless, whatever you like, just decrease cooking time a bit if you use boneless. My son would have liked it if I’d used wings and drumsticks, and I’m sure it would have been just as over-eatin’ good. Feel free to bump up or turn down the paprika, ginger, and cayenne depending on how kicky or mild you like it.

2 1/2 – 3 pounds chicken thighs (or other chicken pieces)

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

1/2 bunch worth of fresh cilantro (a generous, loosely-packed 1 1/2 cups)

1/2 bunch worth of flat-leaf parsley leaves

1 onion

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 1/2 teaspoons hot paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

Generous pinch saffron threads (about 20)

1/2 cup white wine or chicken broth (water works too)

2 preserved lemons

1 cup black olives (unpitted would be fine, but I used some pitted black olives that were really a red-brown color from Lyndsey’s “Naturals” line)

Rinse chicken pieces and pat dry. Sprinkle with salt. Cover and chill up to overnight, if you like, or simply set aside while you heat the oil.

Heat the oil over medium high heat in a large, heavy pan or pot that will be able to hold all the chicken in a single layer eventually – that eventual single layer can be crowded.

For now, however, things are not going to be too crowded. Place the chicken, skin-side down if that applies, in the pan to brown. Don’t let the pieces touch to maximize the browning and minimize the stewing for the moment. Cook until the chicken naturally and of its own volition releases from the pan, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn and brown on the other side. Repeat with the second batch, if necessary.

Meanwhile – and you’ll need to either do some of this ahead or work somewhat quickly, chop the cilantro and parsley and onion (you could do this by pulsing it all in a food processor if you like, but I’m warning you now that you will eventually need to clean it) and put them in a large bowl. Add all the spices and toss to combine. When the first chicken pieces are done browning, add them to this mixture and toss to coat the chicken. Add the second batch if you needed to do one and toss to combine too.

Drain off any excess fat from the pan. Add wine or broth and scrape up the delicious brown bits on the pan. Add chicken and herb-onion-spice mixture and 1 cup of water. Bring just to a boil, cover, reduce heat to a gently simmer, and cook until chicken is tender and onions are melting into the sauce, 20 to 25 minutes.

After you cover the chicken, remove the pulp from the preserved lemons, rinse the rinds in cool water, and cut rinds into strips. Scatter lemon rind strips and olives over the chicken and return cover.

Serve chicken hot, with plenty of sauce, over couscous or with crusty bread with the heft and ability to soak up the addictive sauce. Some sauteed greens onto which you can drizzle some of the sauce as you eat are a nice addition.