The city of Marrakech—perched at the top of Africa in Morocco, but halfway between Europe and Arabia in both geography and spirit—delights all of the senses. Its exotic sights and sounds have been enchanting visitors for centuries, but its biggest draw is its epicurean scene.
One of the city’s finest restaurants, La Maison Arabe, is housed in a riad—a former mansion converted into a boutique hotel, hiding behind high walls. Cuisine here is an inventive combination of Moroccan and French—and easy enough to recreate at home. Here’s a patron favorite.
½ preserved lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, finely chopped
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1½ teaspoons turmeric
2 chicken thighs, bone-in
2 chicken drumsticks
1 small red onion, finely diced
10 green olives
Cut the preserved lemon half in two, lengthwise. Remove the pulp with a paring knife, and set peel aside. Chop the lemon pulp and place it in the bottom of a medium-sized tagine or Dutch oven. Add the olive oil, garlic, parsley, cilantro, salt, pepper, ginger and turmeric and mix with a spoon.
Add the chicken thighs and drumsticks to the tagine, turning to coat with the olive oil-spice mix. Add in the onion. Place the tagine over medium heat (if using a ceramic tagine, place a metal heat diffuser on the burner), and sear the chicken for about 20 minutes, turning frequently, until the skin is evenly crisped. Gradually add 4 tablespoons of water in small increments to prevent sticking.
When the chicken is browned, add 1 cup of water, reduce flame to medium-low and cover. Let simmer for 45 minutes, occasionally removing the cover to stir and turn the chicken. After 45 minutes, add the lemon peel and olives, cover and cook for 5 more minutes. Serve immediately. Serves 2.
French-born Sommelier Nicolas Chain, a founding member of the newly formed Sommeliers Association of Morocco, wrote the wine pairings for La Maison Arabe’s cookbook. He recommends Domaine des Ouled Thaleb’s 2010 Médaillon Sauvignon Blanc from Benslimane, Morocco with the chicken tagine, because the fresh citrus flavors and bright acidity of the wine cut through the spice and hold up to the tartness of the lemon and olives. Since tracking down a bottle of Moroccan Sauvignon Blanc might prove difficult, feel free to try your own personal favorite.