Chicken Legs With Preserved Lemons and Green Olives

Excerpted from Mourad: New Moroccan by Mourad Lahlou (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2011. Photographs by Deborah Jones.

Chicken Legs With Preserved Lemons and Green Olives

Excerpted from Mourad: New Moroccan by Mourad Lahlou (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2011. Photographs by Deborah Jones.

This classic Moroccan chicken dish is from Mourad Lahlou's book, MOURAD: New Moroccan.  While the recipe works particularly well in a traditional tagine pot, chef Lahlou says a more commonly available Dutch oven can also be used.

In introducing this recipe, he wrote:

"If you’re looking for an ultra classic Moroccan chicken dish — and a great starter recipe for test-driving your new tagine — this is it. In Morocco, where until fairly recently the idea of “chicken parts” didn’t exist, it would be made with a whole chicken — or several chickens — sometimes cut into pieces, but more often than not cooked whole. I’ve eaten this a thousand times, and I remember how we’d all avoid the breast pieces, which were always dry and overcooked, and fight over the legs and thighs. Now I make the dish with dark meat only.

In Morocco, the bird would be placed in a tagine or a big pot with water, spices, and oil and cooked for a few hours. Then the chicken would be removed and the olives and preserved lemons added. The sauce would be cooked way down, and the chicken would be put back in at the end to warm it through. I approach it in a more European way, browning the meat in duck fat to build flavor, sautéing the onions with the spices, simmering the legs in stock, and then adding a final enrichment of butter. If you don’t have a stainless steel tagine, a heavy Dutch oven (fitted with a cone of aluminum foil) will also work well."

Note from The City Cook:  This recipe calls for using a stainless steel tagine.  If you instead have a traditional clay tagine or one that can be used directly on a heat source as with flame ware, you should be able to use a heat diffuser and follow the recipe, including the steps that call for browning the chicken.  Use your own judgment and the guidelines provided to you by your tagine's manufacturer.  Alternatively you can use a Dutch oven and make your own cone cover from a few layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil, shaped so that it fits inside the pot with its lid on, set over the ingredients.  Alternatively, place a piece of parchment paper over the pot and then cover it with its lid.  The point is to create a way to capture and return the cooking food's moisture.



  1. Generously salt the chicken legs on all sides. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the fat in the bottom of a stainless steel tagine over medium-high heat. Add 3 of the chicken legs and cook, turning once, for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until they are well browned. Remove the legs from the pan and cook the remaining 3 legs. Remove them from the pan.
  3. Discard all but 2 tablespoons of the fat remaining in the pan; if the fat looks burnt, discard it and heat the remaining 2 tablespoons fat in the tagine. Add the onions and sauté over medium-high heat, stirring often and adjusting the heat as necessary, for 15 minutes, or until they are a rich golden brown.
  4. Remove all but the bottom oven rack so the tagine will fit. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  5. Add the spices and a pinch of salt to the onions and stir constantly for about 1 1/2 minutes to lightly toast the spices. Return the chicken legs to the tagine, pour in the chicken stock, and bring to a boil.
  6. Cover the tagine, transfer to the oven, and cook for 40 minutes, or until the chicken is tender and is beginning to pull away from the ends of the drumsticks. Remove the legs from the pan.
  7. Return the tagine to a burner and simmer for about 3 minutes to reduce the sauce. Lift some sauce on a spoon; it should coat the spoon. If it needs to reduce further, continue to simmer as needed. Add the lemons and olives. When they are hot, whisk in the butter and herbs. Add salt to taste.
  8. Arrange the chicken legs on a platter and spoon the sauce, lemons, and olives over them.

Chicken Stock

Makes 5 to 6 quarts

Using chicken feet will add a lot of viscosity to the stock, which is especially important if you’re using the stock to make the jus and sauce. But if you’re using the stock for other purposes, or you can’t get the chicken feet, add 2 pounds of chicken bones in their place.

Canola oil
8 pounds chicken backs, necks, and bones
8 quarts cold water
2 pounds chicken feet
2 pounds carrots (about 8 large), peeled
2 celery stalks
1 large onion
4 garlic cloves
8 thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons Tellicherry peppercorns

For chicken stock that will be used to make chicken jus or chicken sauce:


For all-purpose chicken stock (this will also be used for chicken bouillon):

To store the stock, let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.






Newsletter Sign-Up

Good: Like Chicken Soup




The City Cook Newsletter

You will receive an email shortly, please follow the link to verify your subscription.

More Recipes