Sunday, July 12, 2009

Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons

This was the first recipe that I used my preserved lemons on, which is courtesy of the Epicurious website - you can read the whole recipe here. I'm thinking this is actually a pretty common recipe, because I looked at about six different versions of the recipe before settling on this one. The others either asked for ingredients I didn't have (I don't keep harissa on hand, typically), or used chicken livers (not a line I'm willing to cross for this blog just yet).

So, I set to work on this recipe. I did the whole mise en place to start, and right away I ran into a little trouble. You see, the recipe called for 16 pitted green olives. I'd bought them with pits. No biggie - not hard to pit an olive, or so I thought. Apparently, olives are different from cherries and avocadoes in the sense that while cherries and avocadoes can have their pits coaxed out of them pretty easily, olives HANG the F*CK ON to their pits with their FINGERNAILS. My first three attempts at pitting an olive wound up with me nearly slicing my finger open with my knife, and the accursed pits lying on my cutting board, glaring at me triumphantly with tatters of olive flesh hanging off of them, in a puddle of brine.

The irrational part of my mind took over. Instead of satisfying my mouth's curiosity towards preserved lemon, I would satisfy my ears with the statisfying crunch the pits would make... when I crushed them with my claw hammer. Unfortunately, the pits were slippery and hitting them with a hammer only caused them to shoot across my kitchen and hit the far wall. I was completely frustrated at this point, but then I noticed that only the pit had gone flying - the flesh of the olive (what was left of it) was still on the cutting board. That was an "A-HA" moment I needed, and I dumped out the 16 olives I needed, and proceeded to GENTLY squish each one with the flat side of my knife. The pits came out pretty easily, and I cut the olive flesh into strips. The rest of the recipe proceeded smoothly; it's not a hard one to pull off. And the finished product looked just like the photo from the recipe.

And for all that... I didn't like the finished product. I'm not the biggest fan of green olives, save for in martinis, and the taste of the olives kind of overpowered most of the other ingredients, except for the preserved lemon. Which, I don't think I cut out enough of the pith from the lemon before putting them in this recipe - they were too bitter, although the lemon flavor itself was incorporated nicely into the chicken breast, which was about the only part of the recipe I kinda sorta liked.

What I DID really like was the couscous I made to go with this. I toasted a handful of cashews, pecans, and almonds in a frying pan, and prepared a batch of couscous with chicken stock, a dash of garlic powder, and butter. When the couscous was ready, I fluffed it, and tossed in the toasted nuts and a little bit of chopped dried apricot. Yum

So, the first recipe I used preserved lemons in didn't go over so well. But, I wasn't about to give up so easily after waiting a month to make them. I already knew what I was going to attempt for my next recipe, and this time, NO ACCURSED BRINY GALLSTONES-OF-SATAN UNPITTED FREAKIN' OLIVES!

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