I've recently been revisiting chicken with lemons and olives, a dish from my childhood, inspired by lemons dangling in backyards all over the Bay Area. Ok, I realize this is not a bolt of culinary genius - I probably share this taste memory with millions of others. It's a classic, and for good reason: a prime example of transforming a few humble ingredients into a balanced, interesting chicken dish that improves with a couple of days. Rich, briny, brothy, comforting and tart. In our family we called it "Aisha's Chicken" after my Algerian aunt who taught my mother the recipe. My mom made it a lot because it's easy. It's still her dinner party go-to: 30 years later! I haven't seen Aisha in over 20 years - I barely remember her - but her legacy lives on, and I've made this dish for hundreds. Food is amazing that way. Anyways, I've refined Aisha's a bit and had fun using lemons in many incarnations: thrice blanched, julienned peel; minced, preserved lemon; and juice at the end. If you don't feel like doing that, just slice fresh lemons thin and chuck them in the pot with the chicken, peel and all, at the end. Serve with couscous. Or rice. I like toasted Israeli couscous pilaf, but any grain is good. This recipe is nowhere near exact, but this dish is hard to mess up.
Chicken with Lemons and Olives
1# Chicken legs
1/2" knob of ginger, minced
1/2 large onion, minced
a couple of garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 preserved lemon, peel only
a couple of lemons, peel removed with as little white pith as possible, blanched three times to remove bitterness, and julienned
Green pitted olives, preferably Israeli, halved
Parsley, cilantro to garnish
Season with salt and pepper and sear the chicken in a dutch oven or large pot. Set chicken aside.
Add garlic, onions, ginger and a little salt to pot, sweat covered on low, until translucent. Scrape up the chickeny bits on the bottom of pot.
Tuck chicken back into the onions, add enough stock to come almost all the way up.
Bring to boil, and back down to simmer.
Cook chicken 45 minutes or until meat falls off the bone, but is still tender.
Removed chicken and reduce sauce until thick-ish.
Add preserved lemon - go slow and add more to taste as it can be overwhelmingly astringent.
Add olives, too. Return chicken to pot and cook for ten more minutes.
Take off the heat to let flavors mingle, and add julienned peel to taste, and salt and pepper.
Finish with lemon juice right before serving, and chopped herbs.