Roast Chicken Project #7 - Preserved Lemon and Moroccan Spice Roast Chicken
I'm calling this Moroccan-ish because I drew on some North African flavors, but I don't know that anything like this is actually served in Morocco. It will, however, be served forever after in my apartment because I kind of hit it out of the park with this one.
I thought, seeing as I've hit the halfway point of the Roast Chicken Project, that maybe I was ready to test my skills and fly without a recipe for this one. So, I turned away from my recipe books, blogs, and magazines, and decided to use what I had learned so far. Dare I say I even got a little experimental?
Here are the "rules" I kept to, based on the last 6 months of research:
1. Keep it simple: no brining, basting, or other special cooking techniques, including trussing or tying the legs up with string.
2. Make it flavorful: I had a jar of preserved lemons in the fridge and a dubiously aged spice mix in the pantry.
3. Let it rest: give it a good night's sleep, uncovered, in the fridge for the driest, crispiest skin.
4. Crank the oven up: My oven stubbornly hovers around the 400-425 degree zone, but I cranked it as high as I could and kept the roasting time as short and intense as possible, for crispy skin and a juicy bird.
5. Have fun! I know I said no brining in step one, but I did get adventurous and sort of brine with the preserved lemon tucked under the skin of the breast and thighs overnight. At least, that's what I'm assuming happens when you leave a super salty, acidic mixture in direct contact with your chicken for 12+ hours.
The result was one of the easiest, yet tastiest birds I've roasted yet. The chicken skin crisped right up and bronzed in the oven without any extra help from additional fat, and had abundant flavor from the spice mix. The meat was juicy, tender, and perfectly cooked, and infused with the unique, sharp, pickley and lemony flavor that only comes from preserved lemons. Finished with a squeeze of lemon and served with good greens tossed in a spicy, creamy dressing, it was as simple, yet delicious a meal as I've had from this project yet.
Moroccan(ish) Roast Chicken
- One 3-4 lb whole chicken
- 1/4 cup preserved lemon, chopped
- 2 tbs moroccan spice mix (Ras-El-Hanout)
For serving (optional):
- salad greens such as arugula, baby spinach, mesclun or a mix
- a few tbs chopped fresh mint
- 1/4 cup buttermilk
- 2-3 tbs mayonnaise
- 1 1/2 tbs harissa (store-bought or make your own)
- 1 tsp chopped preserved lemon (optional but if leaving out sub 1/2 tsp salt or more to taste)
- 1 tsp olive oil
- a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
- The night before you want to roast your chicken, get it ready for bed. Pat chicken skin with paper towels to dry. Gently slide a finger under the skin on the breast and thighs to loosen, then fill each "pocket" with a bit of the chopped preserved lemon. Rub any extra in the cavity of the chicken (now might be a good time to make sure there are no bags of gizzards and livers in there). Salt the chicken generously all over the skin and in the cavity, then rub all over with the spice mixture. Place chicken in a large bowl or on a plate and refrigerate, uncovered, overnight until ready to roast.
- When ready to roast, remove chicken from fridge and let come to room temperature for at least 30 minutes, up to an hour. Preheat oven to 400-425 degrees. Roast chicken for 60-75 minutes, checking for doneness at an hour (see notes). Temperature in the thickest part of the thigh (not on the bone) should read 160-165 degrees and juices should run clear.
- While chicken is roasting, make your dressing, if using. Combine buttermilk, 2 tbs mayonnaise, harissa, preserved lemon, 1 tbs fresh mint, olive oil, and lemon juice in a small bowl and whisk together. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Adjust to desired thickness by adding more mayo or buttermilk.
- When chicken is done, remove from oven and let rest 10-20 minutes, then carve and serve with lemon wedges. Toss the greens with the dressing and garnish with remaining fresh mint and serve on the side with the chicken.
- I call for a 400-425 degree oven here, because sadly, my oven just can't do more than that on most days. If you are lucky enough to have a functioning oven, I'd say roast at 450 and check for doneness at 45 or 50 minutes, depending on the size of your bird.