366 – Chicken with Olives and Preserved Lemons / الدجاج المحمر بالزيتون الأخضر والحامض المصير

Let’s make a staple Moroccan dish: Djaja Mhammer, chicken with olives and preserved lemons, often served during Moroccan weddings!

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken (medium size)
  • 1 large onion
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • 1 preserved lemon (large size)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Large pinch saffron threads (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • A small bouquet of fresh cilantro
  • 1 preserve lemons
  • 15 green olives
  • A little bit of butter
  • Water (2 cups)

Directions

Step 1 – Preparing the Ingredients: 
1- First, let’s prepare the ingredients! Peel the onion and using the large holes of a grater, simply grate it. Thinly chop the small leftover pieces of the onion.
2- Crush the garlic cloves with the flat of a knife then chop them finely.
3- Here is our secret ingredient: preserved lemon!  Quarter the preserved lemon and remove the pulp from the peel.  Slice the peel and finely chop the pulp. Keep them in separate bowls.

Step 2 – Browning the Chicken: 
1- On medium heat, drizzle vegetable oil and olive oil in a large pot.
2- Add the grated onion and chopped garlic.
3- Crush the saffron threads and add along the rest of the spices: ground ginger, ground turmeric, and ground black pepper.
4- Add all of the chopped preserved lemon pulp. Mix well and cook for 1 minute. I am not adding salt because the preserved lemon is already salty. So be careful with that.
5- Now add the chicken to the onion mixture cover the pot and cook for 1 minute. Turn the chicken and cook each side for 1 minute each time.
The goal is to brown the chicken and get all the flavors of the spices in it.

Step 3 – Cooking the Chicken: 
1- Add a bouquet of fresh cilantro, add 2 cups of water, cover the pot and cook for 15 minutes. Turn over the chicken to the other side, cover the pot and continue cooking for another 15 minutes.
2- From time to time check that there is enough water in the pot, you only want to half cover the chicken with water – otherwise, the sauce will be too watery.
3- After 30 minutes of total cooking time, remove the chicken from the pot and place it in a baking pan, breast up. Remove the bouquet of cilantro from the sauce and discard.

Step 4 – Baking the Chicken and Reducing the Sauce: 
1- Pass a piece of butter all over the chicken so it gets a nice layer of fat, and bake in a preheated oven to 400F/200C for around 10-15 minutes until the chicken gets a nice brown color.
2- In the mean time, add green olives and a few slices (3-4 slices) of the preserved lemon skin to the sauce. Uncover the pot, increase the heat to medium-high, and continue cooking the sauce until it gets thick with a syrupy texture.
3- And that’s it! Our chicken is ready… it has a beautiful brown color and it smells like heaven. If you have trussed your chicken, now it’s time to remove the thread.
4- Place the chicken in a plate, pour the thick sauce over and around the chicken, add the olives around the chicken and the slices of preserved lemon on top.
Serve with crusty bread. Bon appetit!