It is so ridiculously easy and delicious to braise a whole chicken that I do it almost every week, just to have on hand for last-minute meals. I've posted my recipe for chicken braised in coconut milk before, but not some of the other variations I play around with, so hopefully this post will round things out.
If you've made the coconut milk version, you know that a braised chicken achieves a silkiness in texture that a roasted chicken just doesn't achieve. It's almost obscene the way it falls apart into a pile of intensely-flavored goodness, ready to eat as is or perfectly happy to sit in the fridge for a few days getting better and better (that's why I make one so often).
The recipe — and her favorite variations on it! — when you keep reading.
I vary the seasoning profile to keep things interesting - the aforementioned coconut curry; Mexican (dried chiles, salsa, cumin, splash of cream); French (fresh herbs, wine, splash of cream); and this Moroccan version. I suggest that you take the formula below and experiment to your heart's (and palate's) content.
And then, let me know what you come up with!
The carrots in the picture above are the pickled carrots posted below. They are the perfect, crunchy-sweet condiment for tender chicken.
Braised Moroccan Chicken With Saffron Rice
1 roasting chicken
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1 medium onion, quartered
2 cloves garlic, smashed & peeled
2 Tbsp. harissa
2 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. freshly grated ginger
2 Tbsp. honey
1 preserved lemon, seeded, chopped
1/2 c. water
freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
3 saffron threads, crumbled
1 c. basmati or long-grain rice
1 1/2 c. water
1 tsp. salt
For the chicken:
Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.
Sprinkle chicken generously with salt, inside and out.
In an oven-safe Dutch oven with a lid, heat oil over medium-high heat. Brown the chicken thoroughly on all sides. Don't rush the process, since the chicken won't brown much while braising.
While chicken browns, in a small skillet, toast the cumin and coriander seeds until fragrant. Grind them in a mortar & pestle and set aside.
When the chicken is thoroughly browned, transfer to a large plate. Add onion and garlic to the pan and saute for 2-3 minutes, then stir in harissa, paprika, ginger, honey, and preserved lemon. Nestle the chicken back into the pot, breast up, and add water to the pan. Bring to a simmer, cover, and set in the oven.
Bake chicken for 1 1/2 hours or until very tender. Transfer chicken from the pot to a cutting board (it may fall apart, which is fine) to cool a bit. Skim fat from pan juices, then puree juices with an immersion blender or in a blender. Return to the pot and season with salt & pepper.
Using your hands, pull chicken meat into bite-sized pieces, discarding bones (and skin if you don't like it). Add chicken to the pan juices. Serve warm with saffron rice. Or cool, cover, and chill. Reheat gently to serve.
For the rice:
In a large saucepan, heat oil and butter over medium heat. When hot, stir in onion, garlic, saffron, and rice. Saute until onion softens and rice browns a bit, about 10 minutes. Stir in water and salt, bring to a boil, turn heat to low, and cover tightly. Set timer for 20 minutes.
When rice is done, stir with a fork.