My trip to Morocco, which I've posted about exhaustively, made me fall pretty majorly in love with North African food. Almost everything we ate was insanely good, from the pigeon bastilas (flaky, crispy dough with minced pigeon meat inside mixed with spices and almonds) to the countless chicken and fish tagines I ordered, to the addictive m'smen breads that I bought from every street vendor I saw selling them. And so, the second my boyfriend and I got home, I went on an Amazon spree and ordered three Moroccan cookbooks, and immediately started a full-throttle project to up my tagine game. Stews seemed like an easy place to start. I've always like stews.
And here is the fruit of my labor; a savory chicken braise with some almonds, onions, green Lucques olives, and lemons thrown in to create a whole that was way bigger than the sum of its parts. The chicken falls tenderly off the bone, the olives and lemon add some brightness, and the almonds a nice crunch. Perfect over a bed of couscous steamed in a bath of homemade chicken broth (confession: I was in such a hurry to get this thing going that I used store-bought broth, although I'm 100% sure homemade would've elevated the whole thing). It's a nice starter dish to Moroccan cooking. Next up: homemade m'smen! xo
Moroccan Chicken with Olives, Almonds, and Lemons
2 Meyer lemons (or regular lemons if you can't find Meyer)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 3-4 lb organic chicken cut up into 8 pieces
Coarse salt and pepper
1 large onion, halved, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ras al hanout
2 cups homemade chicken broth or store-bought low-salt chicken broth
Handful of raw almonds
1/2 cup green olives
Cut 1 lemon into 8 wedges. Squeeze enough juice from second lemon to measure 2 tablespoons; set wedges and juice aside. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken pieces with salt and pepper. When oil is sizzling, place chicken pieces skin side down in the skillet and brown evenly on both sides until crisp and golden. Lower the heat if you feel like you need to. Do this in batches if you can't space out the pieces nicely in one go. Set pieces aside.
Add onion to the skillet and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper; saute until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Add next 6 ingredients; stir 1 minute. Add broth; bring to boil. Add chicken. Add lemon wedges and almonds. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until chicken is cooked through, turning occasionally, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer chicken to platter. Add olives and 2 tablespoons lemon juice to skillet. Increase heat to high; boil uncovered to thicken slightly, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over chicken.