The other day I was at the grocery store and I came across a jar of preserved lemons. I'd never seen them there before, and I immediately got very excited. (Not a lot happens in my life, so preserved lemons were indeed a thrill.) Needless to say, I snapped those babies up and came home to look for something to do with them.
I've preserved my own lemons in the past but these looked very different. First of all, the whole lemon was preserved. When I did it, every recipe I found called for cutting the lemons in slices, so I cut the lemons in slices. Looking at these "professionally" preserved lemons, mine really paled in comparison. I saw that one real advantage of preserving the lemons whole is that you can remove the skin in one piece and reserve the pith, which is very soft and mushy. And they just looked so much better than mine. Sad for me, but true.
So here I was with an $8 jar of preserved lemons. I had to find a recipe worthy of this jar of golden lemons. My close personal friend Google had dozens from which to choose and one sounded better than the next. It was like a horn of plenty... filled with lemons.
After much research, I settled on this recipe for roast chicken from The New York Times. Those of you who read my blog regularly know that I am not a great roaster. In fact, I'm not very good at it at all, so I try to avoid roasting "whole" things whenever possible. Instead of roasting a whole chicken, I had Mark the Butcher butterfly a whole chicken and then cut it into four pieces.
Roasting the chicken in quarters has several advantages, not the least of which is that it cooks faster and more evenly. It's also much easier to serve and it looks really pretty. Each serving gets some of the crispy skin, which adds a lot of flavor to the chicken.
The preserved lemons added a lemony and somewhat floral taste to the dish, which was beyond delicious. I served it over a bed of couscous studded with pine nuts. It was like having dinner in Morocco. Well, not quite. But exotically delicious nonetheless.
Recipe: Roasted Chicken With Preserved Lemons
(New York Times, December 16, 2012)
* Note: I made this with a whole chicken which I had my butcher butterfly and quarter. Roast chicken pieces until the juices run clear.
1 3 1/2-pound chicken
2 preserved lemons
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoons honey
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cut the preserved lemons into quarters and remove the rinds from the flesh, reserving both. Create a pocket between the skin and meat of each chicken breast. Slide pieces of the lemon rind, pith side down, into each pocket, two pieces per breast. Then rub the chickens with the remaining lemon flesh. Sprinkle the ground cumin over the birds and season with the salt and pepper.
Set chickens on a roasting rack in a large roasting pan and cook for 20 minutes. Remove the chickens and spread butter over the breasts, then drizzle with the honey. Lower oven temperature to 400 degrees. Roast for 30 to 50 minutes, or until the skin is a burnished brown.
Remove from oven, and allow to rest for 15 or 20 minutes.
Reduce juice from pan over medium heat. Pour over carved chicken.