Expatriate Roast Chicken with Lemon and Olives

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves

    4 to 6

Appears in

The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen

By Paula Wolfert

Published 2003

  • About

This super-moist Moroccan roast chicken is first stuffed with a lavish amount of preserved lemon and a bit of hot pepper, scented with ginger and black pepper, and flavored with garlic and good extra virgin olive oil. The bird is then roasted over onion and spices. These subtle and elementary flavors remind me of Morocco—in other words, it is an expatriate's delight.


  • One 4-pound chicken, preferably free-range or kosher
  • 1 preserved lemon, rinsed and quartered, pulp and skin reserved
  • teaspoons ground ginger
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pinch of saffron threads
  • 1 cinnamon stick, 2 inches long
  • 1 small onion, grated
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup green olives (about 5 ounces), such as picholine, rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro


  1. Early in the day, rinse the chicken inside and out; thoroughly pat dry. In a bowl, combine the pulp of the preserved lemon with the ginger, cayenne, ¼ teaspoon of the black pepper, the garlic, and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Place this mixture in the cavity of the bird. Tuck the wings under the chicken and tie the legs together. Cover with paper towels and refrigerate until 3 hours before serving. Let the chicken return to room temperature before roasting.
  2. About 2 hours before serving, bring 3 cups water to a boil. Rub the chicken with salt and black pepper. Lightly oil a shallow roasting pan, set an oiled V-shaped rack in it, and put the chicken on the rack, breast side up. Set the pan in a cold oven and pour the 3 cups boiling water into the pan under the chicken. Add the saffron, cinnamon stick, onion, and sugar to the hot water. Turn the oven temperature to 550°F and roast until the breast of the chicken is golden brown, about 45 minutes.
  3. Reduce the oven temperature to 275°F. Turn the chicken on one of its sides, brush with olive oil, and roast for 20 minutes. Turn the bird onto its other side, baste again with olive oil, and continue to roast for another 20 minutes. Finally, turn the chicken upside down to brown the back; roast for about 10 minutes. Test for doneness: an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thigh should register 160° to 165°F.
  4. Leaving the oven on, remove the chicken on its rack to a carving board, cover with foil, and let rest for 20 minutes. (The internal temperature will rise to 170°F.) Meanwhile, skim the fat off the pan juices. Add the olives and half the cilantro; mix and return the pan to the oven to reduce for 20 minutes.
  5. Carve the chicken and arrange in a heatproof serving dish. Spoon the olives around the chicken. Season the pan juices with additional salt and pepper and pour over the meat. Arrange the preserved lemon peels on top. Garnish with the remaining chopped cilantro.