adda’s "moroccan" chicken with lemons and olives

when i was young, my dad used to travel a lot, and i clearly remember the time he brought back this moroccan chicken recipe after one of his trips (i can’t remember where he’d gone, but it was not morocco). he made an amazing meal for us (or did he share the recipe, and my mom made it….)-either way,  i’m pretty sure we’ve changed and adapted it several times over the years (it started with cornish game hens), but the dish still fills the house with the same amazing aromas as it did the first time we enjoyed it so many years ago. this is one of those dishes that looks like it’s taken many hours to prepare,  but is actually very easy to make. sometimes it tends to be slightly bitter (which we like)- if you want to avoid this, leave the citrus skin out completely. the original recipe calls for preserved lemons which we substituted (and continue to) with fresh lemons. if you like preserved lemons, go ahead and use them (keep in mind they can be salty, so adjust your salt)- and please share some pictures with us!  today i’m making enough for a gathering of eight, and serving it with steamed basmati rice- it’s also good with oven roasted potatoes, mashed potatoes (see recipe for mashed potatoes), or good home made french fries:)

prep time: 20 minutes
cook time: 1 1/2 hours


  • 10-12 pieces of skinless organic chicken or 3 cornish game hens, halved or quartered
  • 1 large onion
  • 2-3 large garlic cloves
  • 1 small sliver ginger, grated
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • sea salt & pepper to taste- cayenne pepper optional if you like your food spicy
  • 2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 lemons
  • 1 orange (optional)
  • about 20-25 (not pitted) good green or red (or combination) olives
  • small bunch of thyme
  • small bunch fresh cilantro
  • saffron (a few strands) optional

1. peel the citrus (i like to leave some of the skin on, but this may make your dish slightly bitter), and slice in them in 1 inch thick slices. grate a thin sliver of fresh ginger (use a microplane grater), cube the onion, finely mince the garlic, and clean and prep your chicken, removing any extra fat.
2. in a deep skillet heat up the oil and add the onions, garlic, and ginger, sautee for about 2 minutes, then add the cumin and turmeric and combine well before adding your chicken to the pot.
3. sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper and brown on both sides for about a minute or two each. add the slices of lemons (reserve one lemon for later) and olives to the top, sprinkle with a few fresh thyme leaves, and reduce the heat to med/low.

4. if you have to, add just a 1/4 cup of water, close the lid (not too tightly) and let it simmer for at least a good hour (preferably 1 1/2 hours). after about an hour, add the remaining lemon slices (adjust quantities to your taste-cut the citrus in half if you don’t want it too sour), and the saffron (ground or seeped in warm water for about 1/2 to 1 hour) and let it simmer more.
5. you want to serve this chicken when your onions are almost melted-there should be very little liquid left. sprinkle with fresh cilantro (or flat leaf parsley) and serve.
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*this dish came about today thanks to the (incredible) generosity of my lemon trees this year:

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