Northern African Braised Chicken

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This recipe is another prime example of why we created this blog. We first made this recipe a few years ago for Selim’s father and sister. We all loved it then! I was thinking about how delicious it was the other day, but could not for the life of me remember where I got the recipe from! I was convinced it was from Jerusalem, an excellent cookbook of Middle Eastern recipes from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. I paged through it over and over trying to find the recipe to no avail. (Literally I did this for a good 45 minutes.) I followed this up by googling “chicken recipe braised harissa olives.” Google isn’t perfect after all… Turns out, I had the entirely wrong cookbook in mind.

This recipe is in fact from Best Ever Slow Cooking, another favorite of mine. This recipe brings the flavors of the Mediterranean and Northern Africa into a delicious braised one-pot dish. We made a fair amount of changes to the original recipes, but stayed pretty true to the flavors I think.

The aromas coming out of our Le Creuset evolved as this recipe progressed.  Initially, you’re hit with the crackling of the chicken searing on the stove that fills the air with a warmth that only cooking fat brings.  Once you toss in the onions and garlic, there is that familiar aroma of things to come.  After adding all the ingredients to the pot, you’ll be flooded with African, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean scents as the cumin, harissa, cinnamon, citrus, and saffron meld together with the chicken fat, onions, and garlic.  The little saffron threads will dominate as this recipe cooks for an hour or longer.  Trust me, even as I write this well after dinner is done and we’re a few glasses into our lovely bottle of Virginia chardonnay from DelFosse, the whole house smells like saffron and we couldn’t be happier about that.  We hope you’ll enjoy this recipe as much as we have.

Northern African Braised Chicken

Adapted from Best Ever Slow Cooking
Ingredients:
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 6 bone-in chicken thighs (we prefer skinless)
  • 1 large yellow onion, sliced
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 2/3 cups vegetable (or chicken) stock
  • 1 lemon [1/4 tsp of lemon zest, 2 slices, & the juice of the rest of the lemon]
  • 1 tbsp harissa
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp saffron threads
  • 1 cup of sliced kalamata olives
  • 2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Salt & pepper to taste

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Instructions: 
  1. In a large dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Once hot, sear the chicken thighs on both sides. Remove from pot after seared and set aside.
  2. Saute the onion and garlic in the same pot, also over medium heat, for ~10 minutes. They should be browning and quite fragrant by this time.
  3. Sprinkle the cumin over the onions and garlic. Stir and saute for another minute.
  4. Pour the stock and lemon juice into the pot and deglaze the pot. (Scrape the bottom of the pot to get all of the delicious bits loose and back into the liquid.)
  5. Add the cinnamon stick, harissa, saffron, and lemon zest. Bring the liquid to a boil.
  6. Now lower heat to a low simmer. Add the chicken back into the pot, plus the lemon slices and olives. Arrange so the chicken is covered with the liquid, as much as possible.
  7. Cover and cook over low heat for ~1 hour. Stir once halfway through cooking.
  8. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Top with the chopped cilantro.
  9. Serve over rice, couscous, lentils, or whatever grain you would like.

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Makes 6 servings.