Recipe Thursday: Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons and Olives

This week’s recipe is by request. I like to have a variety of types of dishes in this blog so I had been putting this one off until we got a little more going on but not only did we make this just the other day but then, like I said, it was requested. I promise next week for something sweet. We don’t eat a lot of sweet bits around here but when we do, we have some favorites – should it be peanut butter based? Pie oriented? GF? What are your sweet needs?

Back to this dish – there are many variations, mine is long adapted from the marvelous Paula Wolfert – I’ve been making this for years and trying it out on unsuspecting dinner guests (it’s how we know if you’re our kind of people- ha!). Preserved lemons are key – don’t let anyone tell you that you can substitute – there is no substitute, and they take a month to set/preserve so either plan in advance, or buy them from me (Whole Foods has been known to carry them, too, but honestly – they are not as good as mine. I think they use Meyers lemons or something firmer/a little bitter, but they are good in a pinch), you can ‘almost’ quick preserve lemons (boil lemon rinds in salted water until essentially all water boils away, rinse, then use – or boil in salted water and let sit 3 hours in the hot water) but again, not as good as the real thing. They really impart a rich and addictive flavor.

And some people use rosy brown Nicoise olives, some Kalamata, but we prefer the flavor (with the preserved lemons) of green – something like Cerignola or Picholine – what you want are green cracked olives, which sometimes you can get true Manzanilla or some other fun underripe firm olive (Cracked means with the pit, and whacked with a heavy blade knife – we like the communal aspect of this dish and picking through olive pits and chicken bones is par for the course, however, in a pinch – pitted are fine, right now I can only get mine through Thrive so pitted are our option).

Other than that, there aren’t many ingredients – onions/cilantro/parsley/garlic/chicken/olives/preserved lemons and spices…it’s just all about the breaking down of the onions and the braising of the chickens (all at once, in a big magickal pot of deliciousness). The whole dish takes about an hour and a half (or so), and is best served over Rice or Sardinian (Fregola, Israeli, Pearl, etc) Couscous or Orzo, or even just a crusty (but not fussy) Bread (like a French Soft Loaf). This is a very streamlined version (the original marinating the chicken overnight, thickening the sauce with mashed livers, boiling the olives, and adding in the onions at stages) – which is pretty fantastic in a cast iron Dutch oven in a campfire, on the stovetop, or in the oven. I admit I am more heavy handed with the spices in this dish – if you like it rich, heavy hand them yourself (I double the amounts).

As I mentioned above (and as with most Moroccan dishes) this meal is meant to be served communally. I have a lovely Safi platter that works great – layer the couscous (or what have you, if using) on the bottom, ladle a little gravy/olives/lemons, then the chicken – whole or torn apart a bit, then ladled with more gravy/olives/lemons – served with lemon wedges around the edge. Everyone chooses their ‘corner’ and stays in their ‘area’ (you get adept at undermining areas so that choice chicken or olives fall into your ‘area’ – ha!). If using olives with pits and chickens with bones, provide a ‘bone bowl’ for discards.

Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons & Olives

Serves 4

  • 1 whole Chicken (3-5lbs, depending on how many people, this recipe is easily doubled/tripled, etc, can also easily be made with boneless chicken though I would definitely then use the livers and a bit more olive oil, and reduce all cooking times by 10 minutes at least) [additional chicken livers if desired, 2 for every chicken]
  • 4 whole cloves of Garlic (halved into fat chunks if necessary)
  • 1 tsp ground Ginger
  • 1 tsp ground Paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground Cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground Black Pepper
  • Sea Salt to taste
  • 1/4 tsp crushed Saffron
  • 3 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 1/2 cups Yellow or Vidalia Onion (2 cups chopped small, 1/2 cup grated)
  • 1/2 cup mixed chopped Parsley & Cilantro (I have made this with just 1/2cup Parsley when Cilantro has not been available and it was delicious)
  • 1 1/2 cups Green Cracked Olives (see description on olives above), rinsed in hot water a few times, set aside
  • 2 Preserved Lemons (you will want the equivalent of the skins of 2 lemons – rinse and scrape out the pulp and the veiny strands leaving the rind/meat of the rind), cut into long strips and set aside
  • 2 Fresh Lemons (or 2 Tbsp Lemon Juice)
  • Pearl Couscous, Rice (White or Brown), Orzo, or French Bread to Serve

In a Large heavy bottom pot (Dutch oven or Roaster), stir chopped Onions, Garlic, Herbs, Spices and 2 Tbsp Olive Oil together [and chicken livers, if desired]. Place whole chicken on top of veg/spices and rub down with remaining Olive Oil and a bit of Sea Salt. Add 2 cups of water around chicken and either bring to a boil on the stovetop/cover/and simmer 30 minutes OR cover and Roast at 425 degrees or cook near hot coals in an outdoor fire (if using fire, make sure to rotate Dutch oven frequently). Be sure to turn chickens once or twice during this cooking time.

After 30 minutes, remove livers if using – mash – and return to pot with grated onion, add water if necessary (do not let onions burn – you are essentially making a thick sauce with them) – if stovetop, continue cooking 20 minutes, partially covered, if oven or fire – return lid and cook another 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cook rice or couscous/orzo according to directions.

After the 15-20 minutes, add Preserved Lemons and Olives to pot and cook another 10 minutes (if stovetop, do this uncovered, if oven or fire, return cover). Chicken should be falling off the bone at this point. If gravy is ‘loose’, remove chicken and reduce sauce to half over a moderate boil (add fresh lemon juice when to desired thickness or save until the end, see below). Salt to taste (though I doubt you will need to with the olives and the lemons).

In a Large platter, pile the rice/couscous/orzo, ladle some of the onion/olives/lemon gravy over, place chicken on top, ladle more gravy – and either squeeze a little lemon overtop, place lemon wedges around edge for guests to treat their own, or sprinkle lemon juice over dish before serving. (Can also add a few sprigs of cilantro or parsley for garnish). See above for communal etiquette – enjoy!

Tuesday Happenings

Our lazy lollygagging ways soon catch up with us – the hurricanes have turned our weather quickly toward Fall and with it a sense of urgency (it’s not too urgent, don’t think we are running around like crazy – that’s just not us – ha!). The meatbirds have less than 2 weeks to grace us with their early adolescent crowing and then we can turn the chicken tractor into a greenhouse to lengthen our tomato season in the garden. There is seedsaving, late Summer foraging, and lots of ‘putting up’ still going on. The wood is already stacked. The baker is trying out new things lately (with the new oven and the transition, he has some experimentation time)- rye breads, mini boules, and sourdough pretzels. We’ve also been trying out the pizza dough in other ways – as focaccia, wrapped around hot dogs as pigs in blanket style buns, stromboli and calzone. And we’re developing a hand-pie line (superyum) and a medicinal tea option. I’m hoping for sourdough chocolate chip cookies today.

Every Sunday we’ve been trying to cook with fire (either grill or in the firepit) – we recently got a large Dutch Oven for this endeavor. This past Sunday we made Moroccan Chicken with Olives and Preserved Lemons – it was stunning, just the way it was meant to be made. I’ve been setting up country flower wine’s this Summer, too – Dandelion, Red Clover, and recently Goldenrod.

Before Winter the sugarshack will have to be set up (because it is hard to get it together in February, and we are always finessing the process), and some Fall tree pruning, garlic planting, chicken coop painting, kitchen floor installing (and laundry closet plumbed and ready, with the old laundry room converted to full pantry storage) and then apple procurement. Since we will not be having a Harvest Party this year, we may do a little ‘ugly’ work around here and rip up some of the gardens and rebuild our foundational yard structures and remove a few trees/stumps (rent a Skid-steer for a day, maybe a Bush-hog, too). Build some new arbors and bridges.

And meanwhile me teaching a class this Fall semester (starting in a few weeks), tutoring, and writing my dissertation, Josh still learning and designing the outdoor Bread Oven, and D doing whatever it is she does (she’s currently writing a movie script, learning Geography, making many (many) corn husk dolls, dressing up the Squash family, and is excited about seed saving). I have this fantasy someday that in the dead of Winter, we all cozy up and just pass Calvin & Hobbes comics back and forth – the other night was almost as good. We all ‘went to bed’ early, cozied up together in the big bed – D reading ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ and ‘All About Cats’, Josh reading Ray Bradbury, and me catching up on Aeschylus – nearly perfect.

May you find some perfect moments ~

Monday’s Muse

I was thinking this morning of art that has really struck me – not monumental art like Picasso’s Guernica or Botticelli’s La Primavera (which have certainly struck me and are amazing) but something a little more accessible. I remembered (Josh doesn’t, even though I remember him being moved, too) an art show we went to way back when in Burlington, VT at this little gallery (that last I saw as an upscale shoe store; so goes the way of retail shops) on Cherry Street. It was a series of painting of chimps and apes and I want to say that they were all deceased but that the painter had met or studied or maybe just admired. They were portraits – some full body, some in repose, in blacks with streaks of red and blue, bright highlights that really lit up their expressions.

The goal of the show was to make the audience feel that these animals had a conscience, had cognizant abilities, personalities, and feelings. It was mesmerizing. And to know that they had all passed and were being remembered brought those little hidden tears at the corner of our eyes (that you wipe away without anyone really seeing, maybe making an excuse about the dust in your eye, etc) – they were stunning paintings. Though my description makes them sound sentimental, it wasn’t that way at all. It was like seeing portraits of friends that you didn’t get to say goodbye to – or family that you were grateful to and wouldn’t get to know them. The artist was going to show the paintings in a few locations for a short time and then destroy them (I can’t remember if she was going to burn or bury them). Apparently it wasn’t even the artist I was taken by – as I can’t remember who they were or find any information – but the stories and the stunning faces they had interpreted for us.

Jane Goodall has critiqued on the lack of human ability to negotiate the world, “We’re destroying our home. That’s not a bit successful. Chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans have been living for hundreds of thousands of years in their forest, living fantastic lives, never overpopulating, never destroying the forest. I would say that they have been in a way more successful than us as far as being in harmony with the environment.”

How do we find our way through?

Duendesday

{life with a curious and crazy 10 yr old}

The agenda of a free 10-yr-old is certainly something to admire and emulate. She wakes up when her body tells her (anywhere between 7 and 9), feeds the pets, and forages for food – sometimes something sensible like cereal or toast, sometimes something ridiculous if it is around like ice cream or fruit crisp, or cold pizza (today it is leftover enchilada). She likes to watch a show in the morning; she’s not quite awake yet but it doesn’t take her long to get there – sometimes she’s up and raring to go. After a show, she comes out to join us in planning our day – this is when she decides who is more interesting to be with or if she should go forth on her own (building chicken coop nesting boxes? taking tent caterpillars from trees? starting a fire in the firepit? or making gnocchi, mending clothes, weeding the garden? or working on her own art, swinging on her swing, digging in her rock ‘mine’?)

Her big ‘responsibility’ right now is to check on the free-range layer chickens throughout the day – making sure they are safe and sound. And that badminton set that I ordered in May finally came in (ha!) so she is loving that, too. Other than that, her day is pretty free and unscheduled – she gets very excited when something interrupts our ‘routine’, like taking the trash to the Transfer Station, take the dog for a walk or scooter at the Farmer’s Market, stop by Nana’s or when folks stop by to pick up a bread delivery.

Today she wants to join me for a Zoom lecture on Seed Saving and Indigenous Seed Sovereignty, offered by MOFGA (Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association) – as she has been saving lots of seeds on her own (peppers, melons, apple, lemon, pansies – she loves the idea of it) and since I am a big fan of Rowen White, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Janisse Ray, Leanne Simpson, and Vandana Shiva – I can’t wait to see the movement in Maine flourish and educate. I’m sure this will spur a whole new seed-saving side to our little peach.

May your days be as scheduled as you’d like them to be.

Tuesday 2 Do’s

We visited a local (and gracious) farm last week to pick up the last of their basil to make pesto for you, and the farmer was lamenting August. So much work to do, so little time. Time to harvest, time to finalize projects before Winter, time to get it all done. And we feel that here, a bit (certainly not like a working farm with sheep and pigs and crops and a store!), but we also set ourselves up for a slower pace. A looking/listening/witnessing pace of nature – now we question, what does our land need before the Equinox, what preparations can we still accomplish between then and the Solstice?

There are some fences that should have had a whitewash this Summer, arbors to be built, gardens and shrubbery designed and shaped, the kitchen floor to be put in, and now that the chicken coop is done it needs painted but we are not on a tight schedule and we are not perfectionists, by choice – we choose to let some projects fail. Not because they don’t need to get done, and not because we’re inefficient or lazy, but because sometimes things need to fail in order to see a better way. Maybe it’s just not the right time (not inspired, not the right tools, not the right season) – and sometimes, we would prefer things to fail than to manage them in a way that isn’t sound with our values. We have to learn not to be so afraid of the word failure – and not so admiring of the word ‘success’. Josh would say that in particular of both of those ideas, we need to not take ourselves so seriously.

So here’s today’s to-do list:
* pick blackberries (it’s quite relaxing and lovely, and slightly compulsive)
* go to the Farmer’s Market and look for goodies to put up
* read books (I have schooltexts – Orestia and Alain Badiou, J has a Javier Marias or a Ray Bradbury to finish or he can jumpstart his new Wildcrafted Fermentation or Biochar book, D is reading ‘Here Be Monsters’ by Alan Snow, and working on a really difficult paint-by-numbers)

That’s it. That’s all that’s going on the list today. You may call it a wash but that sounds pretty amazing and productive to me. Here’s a land manatee to make you feel better:

Thursday Recipe: Stuffed Grilled Squid & Tomato/Watermelon Salad

I love a challenge – and a feast; those two elements together charged with sharing something so lovely with friends is a complete gift. It’s actually been awhile since we made these Stuffed Squid but I wanted to get a recipe down as I’ve been wanting to try them again- Squid or Calamari, doesn’t matter as long as you have some full bodies (at least 4-5″ long, no rips or tears) – marinated overnight in juice to soften and filled with soft bread and sausage. Simple but requires a little bit of forethought. The salad is Basque inspired (from Chef Gerald Hirigoyen), seasonal, quick to get together and an amazing accompaniment (the acid to the fat, the creamy to the meaty, the fresh to the grill, the bright to the muted, etc). And best if you get a myriad of colors of both tomato and watermelon (there are some amazing local orange and yellow watermelons in New England)

When we make this I think of an wonderful Brazilian family we haven’t kept in good touch with from our Boston days – I feel like they would like this, the simple but sexy grill of it with the zing of the salad – Cachaca all around, hanging out, music – dancing – more music, great conversation – WOW! We miss those folks. What absolutely lovely people we’ve had in our lives…

Stuffed Grilled Squid

Serves 4-6

  • 6-8 Squid Bodies (4-5″, no rips or tears) + an extra 1/4 lbs mixed tentacles/bodies
  • 1-2 cups Orange Juice
  • Half a boule of Country Bread (something hearty with teeth) chopped to about 2 cups bread crumbs/bits/chunks (mini ripped chunks are best)
  • 1/2 lb loose Sausage (spiced for your preference or plain and add spice later – fennel, smoked paprika, cumin, etc or even minced apple, garlic, fresh herbs)
  • 1 cup Whole Milk or Buttermilk
  • Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt & Black Pepper

Marinate Squid overnight in Orange Juice. The next day, when readyish to eat – preheat Grill. Then drain and rinse Squid, and rub inside and out with Olive Oil, S&P (be careful not to rip or tear the long bodies); set aside your good whole long bodies.

In another bowl, marinate Bread chunks in Milk, S&P for at least 15 minutes. Meanwhile, chop remaining Squid into small bits and mix with loose Sausage (season Sausage at this point with desired additions). After Bread has soaked, drain gently (squeezing a bit, you want soft bread not soggy bits) and mix with Sausage/Squid – season with S&P if you haven’t.

Stuff whole Squid bodies gently with Sausage Mixture (they should be ‘sausage thick’), “sewing” closed with toothpick at the open end, rub with Olive Oil again on the outside, set aside until all bodies are stuffed. Grill until Sausage feels just firm to the touch (you don’t want to grill Squid too long but long enough to get the sausage to cook inside), turning once or twice (should only be a few minutes – maybe 6 minutes at the most). Set on a platter until ready to serve.

Tomato/Watermelon Salad

Serves 4-6

  • 3-4 small-medium Heirloom Tomatoes, cored and cut into 3/4″ chunks
  • 1 medium Cucumber, peeled, cut into 3/4″ chunks
  • 1 cup 3/4″ cubed Watermelon flesh
  • 1 Avocado (Hass), halved/pitted/peeled, cut into 3/4″ cubes
  • 1 Tbsp mixed Fresh Herbs, in any combination (Basil, Tarragon, Mint, Chives, Cilantro, Marjoram, Lemon Balm, for example)
  • 1/4 tsp ground Coriander Seed (fresh coarse ground is best)
  • 3 Tbsp Olive Oil (fruity is best)
  • 3 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
  • Sea Salt & Black Pepper

In a bowl, combine Tomatoes, Cuke, Watermelon, Avocado, and Herbs. Add ground Coriander Seed, toss gently.

In a small bowl, whisk together Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegar, and S&P to taste. Pour over Tomato mixture and toss gently to coat evenly. Taste and adjust seasoning before serving.

This meal is great with a fun Riesling, or go in another direction – Mojitos, or find some Cachaca and drink to old friends!

Duendesday is for the Cows

{life with a curious and crazy 10 yr old}

Cabot Cheese is having an online drawing contest (juried by the children on the farm) which all sounds like good fun – cows abound! The rules are pretty simple; cows, original artwork, kids 4-17. There are no prizes listed (I’m imagining it is for the fun of it!). So, Duende was on it. These are her ‘sketches’ for ideas…I was pretty partial to the Heart Cow Family though the Swiss Cheese Moon was pretty compelling in the gal with the big pink dress, or the regalness of the profile…she settled and submitted the purple ‘Parrot Pirate Cow’. She was very proud of her work – so funny this one, so freakin’ funny.

Happy Duendesday!

Tuesday Happenings

This is that rare bit of Summer when there is a bit of room for breathing – we’re just waiting for things to grow (and harvest as they come up, but we’re not a farm so it’s an easy pick). There are projects, of course (always projects) like finishing details on the chicken coop, mowing (which is for sure a project around here!), blackberry picking and jam making, pickle canning and bread baking (all of which now happen in the new stove! It’s amazing and gorgeous – thank you so much for everyone who helped with this piece of ‘hearth’ puzzle – for the other half, see the Rock Bottom Community Hearth Project). It’s all in the details and the minute changes, subtle happenings, if you will.

It’s an alternate year for apples (in commercial orchards this can be minimized but we’re a ‘wild orchard’ of mostly mature ‘volunteers’ and cider apples) so we are planning on collecting ‘unattended’ apples from long lost places to cider this year. If you find you want to be a part of this then find some apples, bring them up and press away! Our press is a handmade hardwood lovely classic style masher with an electric grinder (so you can do both at once, keep it going) – don’t forget a jug! If you can’t find any apples, let us know, we may find many many many and you can come and just be a part of the process! (We can figure it out, having small groups, maybe one family or just a couple of people at a time with distancing, etc). Early apples will begin in just another week or two so keep your eye out.

We are a little sad this year not to be hosting a large Harvest Party in September. Our annual Autumn celebration get-together is generally a super fun affair. Families and friends drift in through the day (we’ve totaled around 80-100 or so people), there is a live music set up scheduled, tons of food that we provide, our friends make the beer. Kids and dogs running rampant, picnics all over the lawn, apple pressing, games like Giant Jenga and Free-range Bocce (this year we were ready with Horseshoes), and lots of property wanderings and tours. One year for a smaller get together we harvested the grapes and fried a whole pig’s head (it was incredible) and friends camped out from Philadelphia. The evenings wind down around the firepit with nightcaps and guitars under the cool stars. We’ll do a small ‘family’ gathering this year – just a few folks, maybe – we’ll see how it feels.

May your days have some respite and planning, dreams and celebrations ~