As I’m writing this, I’m also watching football. On my own volition. This hasn’t happened since … Ever.
Why this year? KAEPERNICK.
He went to (and played at, obviously) my alma mater, and man oh man, is Nevada proud. I mean, seriously. We are fond of this person.
(Photo from the City of Reno)
And what am I eating? Leftover chicken. It’s a chill Sunday around here, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I might add that it’s really, really good chicken. It’s braised with soft, sweet onion, a touch of warm turmeric, some briny green olives, and the salty, citrusy heaven that is preserved lemons. Let’s make those first.
Preserved lemons are a staple of north African cooking, and are very simple to prepare. Let’s get to it!
If you find yourself with a surplus of lemons (especially Meyer lemons, which already have lovely, soft rinds), I would highly suggest making yourself a jar or two of these.
In about four weeks, you’ll have beautifully softened peels (the pulp may be used too, but in this case we’ll discard it) that add a bright, unexpected flavor profile to any dish you can dream up.
…And since the process basically just entails packing lemons in their own juices and salt, yes–they’re salty even after rinsing. In that sense, you can use them as a whole new way to salt dishes–add to soups, stews and braises, or mince and use in a vinaigrette, dips, even a turkey burger patty.
In this case, we’re making chicken. This is a simple, quick dish–once you’ve got your preserved lemons (if you’re really in a hurry, you could just buy a jar), it comes together in a flash. It’s perfect for your weeknight rotation.
First, we butterfly, then season and brown our chicken. It needs a tan.
Second, remove the chicken and saute/sweat the onions. Make them soft, mellow and sweet. Yes. Add turmeric and pepper. Things should be smelling heavenly. You should be feeling pretty good about life. Even if you’re wearing yoga pants that also happen to somehow be baggy? I don’t even know.
Then we add our liquid cast members: broth and wine. Olives and the lemon rind go in. Chicken returns to the pan. Cover and braise until it all melds together and the chicken is done–it won’t take long.
Sprinkle the whole thing with cilantro. Parsley is also nice. This chicken would be divine served atop couscous… or with a side of hot, blistered flatbread. Or both. Carbs are the meaning of life as far as I know!
And, of course, let’s make sure none of that wine is wasted. Cheers, friends. Let’s eat chicken.
For one 1-pint jar:
Scrub the lemons very clean. Cut off the top 1/2 inch or so, then quarter top to bottom, but don’t cut all the way through (see photo above). Open up the lemon, pour about a tablespoon of kosher salt into the middle, then close it back up. Repeat with remaining lemons. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of salt into a sterilized 1-pint mason jar. Pack in the lemons with additional salt (1-2 tablespoons) sprinkled in between. Top off with an additional 2 tablespoons of salt and pack tightly, squeezing the juice out of lemons. It should fill up with enough juice to cover the top (if it doesn’t, top with additional fresh lemon juice). Close lid tightly and leave at room temperature for a day or two, shaking the jar occasionally and turning it upside down. Then, transfer to the fridge. After 30 days or so, they’ll be ready to use.
Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons and Green Olives
(recipe from Epicurious)
2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1/2 a preserved lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup dry white wine
10 pitted green olives, halved
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
Pat chicken dry, then butterfly (cut into two thin cutlets) and season with salt and pepper. Scrape the pulp from the preserved lemon and discard or reserve for another use, then rinse the rind and slice into thin strips.
Over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in large saucepan until shimmering, then brown the chicken until golden, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to a plate and cover to keep warm.
Add the other tablespoon of oil to the saucepan and reduce heat to medium and add the onions, followed by the garlic. Saute, stirring frequently, until softened, 8-10 minutes. Add the turmeric and the pepper and continue sauteing for another minute or so. Add the olives, lemon rind, broth and wine. Add the chicken and any juices accumulated on the plate, then cover and braise until the chicken is cooked through, 6-8 minutes or so.
Plate and sprinkle with cilantro before serving. Serves 2.