Couscous-Stuffed Chicken with Olives and Preserved Lemons

Poulet Farci avec Couscous aux Olives et Citrons Confits

I love the classic Moroccan dish of chicken with preserved lemon and olives. But this version from Saveurs de mon enfance is even more intriguing, with its couscous and almond stuffing. Casablanca and Marrakech are the cities where this dish is most popular.

Ingredients

  • 1 large chicken (4 to 5 pounds), or 4 poussins or cornish hens
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • salt for sprinkling
  • 1 cup couscous
  • ¾ cup salted water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • cup blanched almonds, toasted and chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon saffron threads, crushed and steeped in 2 tablespoons hot water
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ginger

For the Sauce

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 2 small hot red peppers
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon saffron threads, crushed and steeped in 2 tablespoons hot water
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 whole head garlic
  • 1 large bunch fresh coriander (cilantro)
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 cups (1 pound) cracked green olives
  • 4 small preserved lemons, cut into quarters

Method

Rinse the chicken well inside and out. Pat dry. Rub with lemon halves and sprinkle with salt inside and out.

Put the couscous in a steamer basket. Sprinkle the couscous with the water and steam over boiling water for 10 minutes. Toss with the oil and steam again for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Fold in the almonds and spices. Stuff into the bird(s). Or for quick couscous, put the couscous in a saucepan. Bring the water to a boil and stir in the spices. Pour over the couscous and cover with aluminum foil. Let rest for 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork. Fold in the almonds.

In a large, deep saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat and sauté the onions until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the red peppers, ginger, saffron, salt, and pepper. Cook for a few minutes. Add the birds(s) to the pan and brown on all sides, turning often. Add the garlic, fresh coriander, and water. Cover the pan and simmer until tender, about 1 hour for small birds and 1 ½ hours for a large bird. During the last 15 minutes, add the olives and preserved lemons.

Uncover the pan and cook to reduce the sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Discard the garlic, peppers, and coriander. Transfer the chicken to a platter. Cut a large bird into serving pieces or quarters; cut smaller birds in half. Spoon the sauce around the bird(s) and garnish with the lemons and olives.