I will use my jar of preserved lemons. I will. I will. I will. If I say enough, it will happen, right?
The unique flavor and pungent taste of lemon preserved in salt make it one of my favorite flavor-enhancers but finding new ways to use it in everyday cooking requires thought.
The first time I made preserved lemons a few years ago, I tried a few recipes but then lost momentum. The jar languished in the pantry, half used, for months. I recently made them again and swore to myself I would use the entire jar. To my surprise, it's been easier and fun. My stash is nearly gone!
I've loosened my grip on the ingredient, releasing it from confines of the recipe. Instead, I've come to think about it as a way to elevate and enhance an already great dish. I add it to tartar sauce to smother on a sardine panini or sprinkle it, minced, on pastas or salads to brighten the flavor.
This dish, inspired by a Cuisine at Home recipe, combines Moroccan spices with the bright, clean flavor of preserved lemon, giving this already tasty dish a little something extra.
Moroccan-Spiced Chicken with Olives and Preserved Lemons
10 chicken boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 large onion, diced
1 tablespoon ginger, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cinnamon stick
1/3 cup white wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (15-ounce) can of diced tomatoes
¾ cup chicken broth
2/3 cups pitted kalamata olives
2/3 cups chickpeas
1 tablespoon honey
2 quarters of preserved lemon peel, sliced thinly (see recipe below)
1 small bunch of cilantro, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon coriander
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
Combine all the spices well. Rub the mixture over the chicken thighs and let sit for about five minutes. Heat the olive oil in a skillet and brown the chicken, about five minutes per side. Remove the chicken. Add the onion and sauté for three minutes. Add minced garlic and ginger, cinnamon stick, red pepper flacks, and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Deglaze with white wine. Add tomatoes and chicken stock, then add the chicken back into the pot. Add the olives, preserved lemon, and chickpeas and simmer on low for a half hour.
Season with salt, and top with cilantro. Serve with focaccia bread or couscous.
1 wide-neck sterilized jar with lid (see photo, above)
About 4 - 5 lemons (or enough to fill the jar) plus one for juicing
6 tablespoons rock salt
1 bay leaf
1 rounded teaspoon peppercorns
Quarter the lemons and add the quarters to the jar one layer at a time, sprinkling salt over each layer. Continue until you fill the jar. Squeeze the juice of one lemon over the top and fill the jar with boiling water. Add the peppercorns and bayleaf. Put the washed skin from a squeezed out lemon half on top of the lemons (beneath the lid) so that if any mold forms, it can be easily discarded. Seal and store in a cool, dark place for four weeks, gently shaking the jars for the first few days to distribute and dissolve the salt. (Adapted from Cooking Moroccan by Tess Mallos.)