I recently had one of those days when the ingredients in the fridge and the pantry aligned to make it obvious what to cook for dinner: chicken breasts, chicken stock, green olives, preserved lemons, saffron left over from my early December Paper Chef adventure, and bulgur, which stood in for couscous. This probably isn’t quite how Moroccans go about making a tagine (though I’ve been following Paula Wolfert from the early days), but I thought it was really good, aromatic, tasty and nutritious.
One step that I took – coating the meat in a paste of olive oil, garlic and seasonings, and letting it sit for half an hour to an hour – could probably be eliminated to speed things up on a weeknight. However, I think it makes the meat tastier. This is a technique that I typically use with pork chops (mashing the garlic with coarse salt and thyme then adding oil) or lamb (adding Dijon mustard to the mix). I’ve been having a hard time with cayenne (too hot) so I used plain black pepper for this dish. I also did not add salt to the oil and garlic since both the preserved lemons and the olives had plenty.
Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons and Green Olives
1 skinless boned chicken breast, halved
1 clove garlic
1 small onion, diced
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp hot paprika or black pepper
Pinch of saffron (good powder like PIN brand) or ¼ tsp turmeric
1 large or two small carrots, peeled and sliced
¾-1 cup chicken stock
½-1 preserved lemon, seeded and chopped
½ cup green olives, whole or ¼ cup sliced
Parsley or cilantro
Bulghur or couscous
Coat the chicken breasts with a paste made from a pressed garlic clove, a little black pepper and olive oil, and set aside for at least a half hour. Saute the chicken over medium-high heat until browned on all sides (adding a little more oil to the pan if necessary) but don’t cook it all the way through. Remove to a warm plate and add the onion to the pan, cooking it slowly until translucent. Add the herbs/spices and stir until well combined, then add the carrot, stirring to coat, and the stock. Return the chicken to the pan and simmer, partially covered, until the chicken and carrots are cooked, about 20 minutes. Add the lemon and olives and heat through. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed. Garnish with parsley or cilantro and serve over bulgur or couscous.
For cooking bulgur, the ratio of water to grain is 2:1. For medium grain bulgur, which is what I had, I boiled 2 cups of water, added salt and 1 cup of grains, turned off the heat and let it sit for 15 minutes, then fluffed. You could also cook it in simmering water, like rice. Couscous is finer and doesn’t need as much liquid, a ratio of 1.5:1, in other words, use 1½ cup of water to 1 cup of couscous and let it stand for 7-8 minutes.
This makes enough for 2-3 people depending on how hungry you are.