Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Chicken smothered in olives

A while back some friends invited for a memorable Middle Eastern feast. The highlight of the meal was the main course: chicken smothered with green olives. The recipe comes from Paula Wolfert's outstanding cookbook Recipes from Mediterranean Cooking. It calls for chicken legs and thighs which are much less expensive than breasts so it is economical for a feast (unless you have to buy all the spices because you don't have them already in your cabinet).

When my friends made this recipe, they pitted all of the olives with a cherry pitter. That seems a bit labor intensive to me, but it was nice not to have to deal with the pits. Nice touch, but not necessary. I've eaten countless dishes, including pizzas, in Italy and France with olives where the olives were not pitted. This dish is great. If you hate olives, you are really missing out, but at least that leaves more for the rest of us!

Chicken smothered in cracked green olives:
Serves 6 to 8

4 lbs chicken legs and thighs
2 large onions
3T olive oil
1 T chopped garlic
1t. ground ginger
1t. black pepper
½ t. ground cumin
½ t. sweet paprika
pinch of saffron
¼ t. chopped green coriander
3 c. water
2 lbs. green cracked olives (Greek or Moroccan cracked or French picholine)
1/3 c. fresh lemon juice or more to taste
whole wheat pita

Trim fat off of chicken. Cup up 1 ½ onions and chopped finely. Press through strainer to drain excess liquid. Measure ¾ c. and discard the rest. Thinly slice remaining half of onion.

In a 5 qt casserole blend oil, garlic, ginger, pepper, cumin, paprika, and saffron into a paste. Stir in chopped onions and herbs. Stir while adding 3 cups of water. Add chicken and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer covered for 20 min.

Drop olives into boiling water, simmer 1 min, then drain.

Preheat oven to 450.

Remove chicken from casserole and place on a baking sheet. Bake on upper shelf of oven for 15 min. or until meat is fully cooked and skin is lightly crisp.

Add reserved onion slices and olives to casserole. Simmer 15 min. Add lemon juice to tast. Season w/ salt if needed.

Remove chicken to a serving platter and cover w/ olives and sauce and serve w/ warm triangles of pita bread.

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