Chicken with Olives and Preserved Lemon Sauce

I love braises and stews, especially now, with that familiar autumn chill in the air.  This chicken dish combines the flavors of a Moroccan tagine with the simplicity of a stove-top braise.  Preserved lemons pack a salty, citrusy punch of flavor, along with saffron, ginger, and garlic.  I love the fact that the chicken is skinned and there is no stove-top browning involved; it makes for a very lean sauce and a spatter-free cooktop.   Serve your chicken with couscous, embellished with some chopped pistachios and currants.  It’s a great dish for easy weekend entertaining.  Enjoy!

Chicken with Olives and Preserved Lemon Sauce
(serves 4-6)
2 chickens (3 1/2 pounds each), skinned and quartered
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
12 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
6 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup grated onion, drained
2 preserved lemons, pulp removed and set aside, peel diced **
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves
coarse salt
juice of 2 lemons (or to taste)
1 cup pitted and halved green olives

Mix together the oil, ginger, paprika, cumin, pepper, saffron, turmeric, garlic, half the grated onion, and the preserved lemon pulp.  Place the chicken quarters in a large freezer or storage bag, and pour the marinade over.  Seal the bag and place it on a baking sheet, so that the chicken is resting in an even layer.  Refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight, turn occasionally to distribute the marinade to all surfaces of the chicken.  When ready to cook, place the chicken in a large, heavy pot with a lid.  Add the marinade, the remaining grated onion, 1/4 cup each of the parsley and cilantro, 2 cups cold water, and a pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil over high heat, cover, reduce the heat, and simmer very gently until the chicken is tender, 30-40 minutes.  Remove the cooked chicken to a warm platter, cover, and keep warm while you finish the sauce.  Strain the cooking liquid through a fine-mesh sieve and skim off the surface fat (this is most easily done with a gravy separator).  Return the liquid to the pot and boil until reduced to 1 1/2 cups (5-10 minutes).  Add the fresh lemon juice to taste, the olives, and the preserved lemon peel.  Spoon the sauce over the chicken and sprinkle with the remaining chopped parsley and cilantro.
(from “Simple Pleasures” by Alfred Portale)
**Preserved lemons can be ordered online, or you can make them yourself (although I have not attempted this myself).  If you do not have preserved lemons, substitute grated lemon zest; add about a tablespoon to the marinade with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.  When you have reduced the sauce, add a little more grated zest and adjust the seasoning with salt to taste. 

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