Adapted from Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France, by Joan Nathan
When Celine Bénitah cooks this dish, she blanches the olives for a minute to get rid of the bitterness, a step that I never bother with. If you keep the pits in, just warn your guests in order to avoid any broken teeth! Céline also uses the marvelous Moroccan spice mixture ras el hanout, which includes, among thirty other spices, cinnamon, cumin, cardamom, cloves, and paprika. You can find it at Middle Eastern markets or through the Internet, or you can use equal amounts of the above spices or others that you like.
To make my life easier, I assemble the spice rub the day before and marinate the chicken overnight. The next day, before my guests arrive, I fry the chicken and simmer it.
4 large cloves garlic, mashed
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 to 2 tablespoons ras el hanout
1 bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped
4 tablespoons olive oil
One 3 1/2 to- 4- pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 cup black Moroccan dry-cured olives, pitted
Diced rind of 2 preserved lemons (recipe: Citrons Confits)
Mix the mashed garlic with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste, the turmeric, the ras el hanout, half the cilantro, and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.
Rub the surface of the chicken pieces with this spice mixture, put them in a dish, and marinate in the refrigerator, covered, overnight.
The next day, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pan. Sauté the spice- rubbed chicken until golden brown on each side.
Stir the cornstarch into 1 cup water, and pour over the chicken. Bring to a boil, and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes. Add the olives, and continue cooking for another 20 minutes. Sprinkle on the preserved lemon, and continue cooking for another 5 minutes.
Garnish with the remaining cilantro. Serve with rice or couscous.
Yields 4-6 servings