Here are some directions for how to cook a whole chicken, Moroccan style. Believe it or not, it will take a lot of time but it also won’t keep you busy. And in the end your house will smell divine and the chicken will simply melt in your mouth. It takes a long time to cook from start to finish, but leaves you healthy spans of time in between adjustments to browse the paper, prepare another dish, make a phone call, or simply stand there wafting the heavenly smell of the thing towards your nose. Like living and cooking in Morocco in general, this method has a kind of even-tempered and measured deliberateness to it that I love.
I made this recipe a few days ago, and by the time I’d gotten out my camera, we’d sort of gone to town on the chicken itself, so the photo below is actually the aftermath of the chicken rather than what it’ll look like when you finish cooking it…but hopefully it gives you an idea. There’s really nothing like the look of a whole chicken just sitting there with its legs and wings and everything.
Before I get to the chicken recipe, another photo of baked pita slices (which I described earlier in the maroc-caponata entry), in the hopes of convincing you that this represents the best possible use for pita bread…
Start with one whole chicken (sans head, feet, giblets, etc.) – as far as I can tell, regardless of organic/free-range/whatever is on the label, the best-tasting chicken is probably going to be the one that died the most recently
Marinate it in either a large tagine or a heavy pot (with a lid) in the following:
One onion, grated
1/4 cup olive oil
A teaspoon each of pepper, salt, cumin, ginger, and cinnamon
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and grated
Juice of one lemon and one orange
One bunch of cilantro, bundled together
If you have any chicken broth lying around, throw that in as well. Rub the marinade all over the chicken and be sure to fill the inside of the chicken with plenty of it. Let it sit and marinate for an hour or so (well, really for however much time you have. If you want to marinate it in the fridge overnight, go for it), and then add enough water or broth till the liquid covers half the chicken.
Place on medium high heat till it simmers, then turn down to medium low heat and cover for 30 minutes.
Next, add 1 T dried thyme, several slivers of preserved lemon (or fresh lemon if you don’t have preserved lemon) and half a cup of green olives (you can use cracked, pitted, or even olives stuffed with orange peel or garlic).
Turn over the chicken, add water or broth if necessary to keep the liquid at half the height of the chicken, cover, and cook for another 30 minutes.
Remove the lid, adjust the seasonings and spices to taste, and cook for 15-30 more minutes (check periodically to make sure it’s cooked through).
The best way to eat it is with your hands!!