Fridays are crock-pot/slow cooker nights at our house. The girlgoyels have gymnastics right after school and we get home late afterwards so we need dinner to be ready and waiting when we pull in.
We have a stack of slow cooker standbys, but sometimes I like to branch out and do something a little more unusual, something exotic.
I still had a lovely jar of preserved lemons that my friend gave me for my birthday and I wanted to use them. When I punched that ingredient into the Google Machine, what came back was lots and lots of Moroccan food!
It sounded perfect to me. My family loves those flavors – sweet, salty and tangy all at once.
To make the recipe correctly I needed a Tagine – A large clay cooking and baking dish with a funnel-shaped top. It’s the traditional cooking dish of North Africa.
I don’t have one, but, as I said, I have my slow cooker. I decided to see if that would work.
I looked over a few recipes for Moroccan Chicken with Preserved lemons and jotted down all the things I liked in each of them. Then, me being me, I skipped a dozen steps, like searing the chicken on each side to seal in the juices and crisp up the skin, and just went for it.
For me crock pot night is about shoving everything in and ignoring it the rest of the day, not about an hour over a hot stove and making a big mess and cleaning that up and… On crock pot day – I have other work to do.
So, I cheated. A lot. And… The dish was still awesome. I did have to fiddle with the crock pot temperature a couple of times, but that seemed a small inconvenience.
Next time I might make it more correctly, but then again, why ruin a good easy dish by adding more work.
The success of this dish is really in the flavors and especially the spices, so make sure you have everything on hand that you’re going to need.
Skin on, bone in chicken pieces. We used 4 whole chicken legs (with the thigh and leg together) – honestly, they ended up being a bit too big and next time I’ll opt for just thighs most likely. If you’re a chicken breast person, I’m sure those would work equally well. Just make sure to keep the skin on and the bones in.)
Then, the spices:
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon ginger
2 teaspoons paprika (Preferably smoked paprika)
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Add to 2 Tablespoons of good olive oil and stir to make a paste.
Rub the paste all over your chicken pieces. This is enough spice paste to coat 4 whole chicken legs.
Set your meat aside. Note – the spices will stain plastics, so you might want to put your chicken in a glass or metal baking dish.
Next, you’ll need one large onion sliced in thick rounds.
4 large garlic cloves sliced thin. (Or to taste, I find this to be the bare minimum, but then again I LURVE garlic!)
2 preserved lemons (sliced), or if you’re like me and you have a jar of home-made preserved lemon pieces from a friend, you’ll use about a cup of preserved lemon bits.
Other optional additions – olives, sliced in half. Raisins. Almond slivers.
Now, the traditional process involves searing the chicken on each side before putting it in your crock, caramelizing the onions and garlic, etc. Yes – that method could bring out even richer flavors. But, if you’re short on prep time –
My method – place a layer of onions, preserved lemons, garlic and any of the other additional options at the bottom of the crock pot.
Top with a layer of seasoned chicken pieces.
Sprinkle a layer of sliced onions, garlic and preserved lemon chunks/slices/pieces and any of the other optional additions.
Add another layer of chicken pieces.
Continue until you’ve used up everything and your crock is full. Gently pour 1/2 a cup of water over everything to keep it moist while it cooks.
Turn up the crock to HIGH for 2 hours.
After 2 hours, turn it back down to low for an additional 4 hours.
If you can, turn the crock back up to high for a final hour. If you’re not going to be around that last hour to turn it up then plan on having it on low for 6 hours instead of 4.
To serve – give everyone a piece of chicken and make sure it is generously topped with the cooked onions, garlic and preserved lemon bits.
Serve with Harissa Squash and Spiced Lemon Quinoa (or couscous if you prefer) with Almond Slivers*. (Both of these can also be cooked in crockpots for the win!)
For the quinoa, put 1 1/2 cups of plain quinoa, 2 Tablespoons of melted butter, 1 small onion chopped fine, 3/4 teaspoons of salt, 1 teaspoon of fresh grated lemon zest, juice from 1/2 of the lemon, 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, a dash of black pepper and 1&3/4 cups of water in the crockpot on low. Just before serving sprinkle in 1/2 to 3/4 cup of almond slivers, fluff into the quinoa and serve. (You can also add some fresh mint if you have it on hand!)