Spring is a funny thing in Montreal – it peeks it’s shy little head out after what seems like an eternal winter, usually in the form of a garden bud, or a tiny blade of grass that’s managed to push it’s way through the snow. And then, just when we have that little taste, our excitement climbing along with the temperatures – winter snarls, hurling it’s nasty breath at us to ensure us that it is not quite done just yet. But then, suddenly, a week flashes before our eyes and summer is in full bloom. Suddenly the sun shines bright, the snow banks have completely dissipated and the telltale springtime smell of melting dog poop is quickly replaced by the smell of freshly cut grass. I was tempted to begin this post with the phrase “spring has sprung…” but I quickly realized that Spring was never really here. Montrealers don’t have time to waste with in-between seasons… we are in full blown Summer Mode, and there’s no going back. So lather up your sunscreen, get outdoors, soak up the rays and lighten up your menu.
While you’re at it, you can pretend you’re living somewhere where it’s always hot – add a simple ethnic twist to your dinnertime menu. Make yourself a nice cucumber and tomato salad starter and please your palate with some delicious Moroccan style chicken, with preserved lemons, garlic and cilantro.
A friend of mine commented the other day on how my chicken is always moist, and he worried that even if I prepared everything for him, if he cooked it himself, he wouldn’t be able to match what I could do. While I always enjoy a good compliment, I’m certainly not magical – but the flavours and amount of moisture in my chicken might make you think that I am. So, I’ve decided that it’s time to share my Magical Method. Never. Eat. Dry. Chicken. Again.
Moroccan Style Chicken
inspired by my good friend, Katherine Romanow
Note 1: I use chicken thighs because I prefer the taste and texture of dark meat. If however you would like to take a lighter approach, I’ve made this before with skinless boneless breasts, and it’s worked out quite nicely.
Note 2: If you cannot find preserved lemons, substitute one half of a fresh lemon, chopped with the rind on, sprinkled with 1 tsp of salt.
Note 3: Use good quality olives. The canned ones are terrible.
what you’ll need
6 to 8 chicken thighs, backs off, skin on (or off. your choice.)
2 or 3 preserved lemons (about 1/4 cup, chopped)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
3 or 4 garlic cloves, chopped finely
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp fresh thyme
2 tsp tarragon
1 cup white wine (or beer, or chicken stock)
1 cup good quality chopped pitted olives
how to do it
Preheat oven to 350F. Combine garlic and spices, except for cilantro. Add 1 tbsp oil, toss to coat. Toss chicken with spice mixture, coating each piece well. Pour wine into 8 x 8 Pyrex dish or shallow roasting pan. Place chicken thighs side by side in dish. Top with cilantro, lemons and olives. Cover tightly with tin foil, piercing a few holes with a fork. Cook for about 40 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink inside. Tip: pan juices are delicious when poured over some fluffy rice. Enjoy!
FINAL NOTE: MAGICAL METHOD! Whichever kind of chicken you’re making, cook it in some kind of liquid and cover it with tin foil. It will come out delicious. Every. Single. Time.
I love spring! I love the colours, the warmth and the fashion. Most of all, I love spring because it means that summer is just around the corner! And summer means that my garden will be in bloom. I love being able to go into the backyard and pick a myriad of vegetables to fill up my salad bowl. I love the endless vine-ripened tomatoes, the fresh chives, the large zucchinis and the abundance of mint leaves. The only downside to gardening in the North is the limit to the kinds of fruit that can be grown. Oh, how I long to have a citrus tree. Alas, until I live my dream life in a warmer climate, I’ll have to settle for the lemons at the supermarket.
Incredible things, lemons are. Their smell triggers memories of being a small child and watching my mother dust the living room table. Yet, I still want to eat them. And how! I love to squeeze a little lemon into my iced tea (a summer favorite), over a nice piece of grilled salmon (another summer love), or into a light dressing (to pour over my garden vegetables). But, give me lemons, and I will make cake. Actually, give me a new mini bundt pan, and I’ll jump around until I can make many little cakes! I have a soft spot for exciting new kitchen gadgets. And pans. And spatulas. I love spatulas. Enough daydreaming, let us bake cake!
• 1 cup granulated sugar
• 2 tbsp finely grated lemon rind (from two small lemons)
• 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
• 4 large eggs
• ¼ cup lemon juice
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 2 ½ tbsp poppy seeds
• ¾ tsp baking powder
• ½ tsp baking soda
• ½ cup sour cream