The jar of Preserved Lemons was hanging around in the pantry for several years and would soon reach its expiration date. The pantry also contained a box of Trader Joe’s Couscous, as well as a jar of Zatar, the latter thanks to a Penzey’s gift certificate from my daughter. A quick perusal of the freezer revealed four chicken legs, both thighs and drumsticks; so it seemed to me that I had the basics for a Moroccan dinner.
While I had eaten a chicken tagine on more than one occasion in New York, which pretty much has a restaurant for every type of ethnic food, I had never prepared a Moroccan meal. As luck would have it, the pantry also disclosed a jar of Harissa Spices, compliments of Williams-Sonoma and the refrigerator gave up a jar of Kalamata olives, as well as some green olives, albeit with pits. Good enough for me to give it a go.
Improvising as I went along, I browned the chicken pieces in olive oil, tossed in Zatar, then Harissa, added a dash of powdered ginger on a whim, deglazed the pan with the preserved lemon liquid, then added the preserved lemons and olives, covered the pan and cooked the concoction for 10 minutes. In the meantime, following Trader Joe’s directions, I made a batch of couscous.
When the chicken was done and I tasted the sauce, I knew I had a winner! There were no leftovers worth worrying about, and whether it was real or ersatz Moroccan, neither I nor my wife gave a fig.
4 whole chicken legs split
3 tbsps. Extra virgin olive oil
1 & 1/2 tsps. Zatar
2 tbsps. Harissa spices
1/2 tsp. powdered ginger
12 oz. jar preserved lemons, about 8 lemons
2/3 cup green olives
1/3 cup Kalamata olives
1. In a sauté pan with a cover, and large enough to comfortably hold the chicken, heat the olive oil on medium, then add the chicken pieces. Reduce the heat to medium – low and brown the chicken for 20 minutes, turning frequently, about every 3 or 4 minutes. After the first complete turn slowly sprinkle the Zatar all over the chicken and after the second complete turn do the same with the Harissa Spices. Then sprinkle the powdered ginger all over the chicken.
2. After 20 minutes remove the chicken, add the liquid from the preserved lemon jar, but not the lemons, and de-glaze the pan.
3. Add back the chicken, toss in the lemon and olives, raise heat to medium, cover and cook for 10 minutes turning the pieces once or twice to make sure they are well coated.
4. In the meantime cook the couscous according to the directions on the box.
5. When the chicken is done, transfer the cooked couscous to a serving platter, remove the chicken and place over the couscous. Raise the heat to thicken the sauce, then pour it over the chicken and couscous. Serve immediately.