Moroccan-Style Roast Chicken with Coriander and Mint

Some people think they hate cilantro, yet they devour Mexican and North African sauces that are laced with this pungent green herb. This is a classic chicken recipe from North Africa, and those folks who claim they don’t like cilantro will enjoy it and wonder what makes it so good.

Ingredients

Spice Paste Marinade

  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • ½ cup chopped fresh mint
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced garlic
  • ½ teaspoon saffron, steeped in 2 tablespoons hot water
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 poussins (young chickens) or Rock Cornish game hens, about 1 pound each
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 onions, diced (about 2 cups)
  • cups reduced Chicken Stock
  • 16 to 20 kalamata or ripe green olives
  • cup Preserved Lemon Peel
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Method

Procedure

Stir together all the marinade ingredients into a paste. Reserve half of it. Rub the remaining paste over the outsides and in the cavities of the poussins or Cornish hens.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the birds on a rack in a shallow roasting pan and roast until the juices run clear when a thigh is pierced with a skewer, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand until cool enough to handle. Cut the birds into quarters and keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a medium sauté pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until tender and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the reserved spice paste and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Add ½ cup of the stock and purée in a blender or food processor. Return the purée to the pan and thin with the remaining cup of stock. Add the olives and lemon peel. Season to taste with salt and pepper. This can be made ahead of time.

Rewarm the sauce, if necessary. Distribute the cut birds on each of 4 serving plates. Spoon the hot sauce over the birds and serve with couscous.