There are a few things in making this dish that I have never done before. First, this is my first time baking a chicken using a Dutch oven (cast iron pot). It was far easier than I anticipated it to be. After browning the chicken and slightly sautéing the vegetables, just put every thing in the pot and stick it in the oven. Then you will have a room filled with a delicious aroma in about an hour and dinner is ready.
Secondly, I never used this much garlic in a dish: 4 heads (about 30-35 cloves). The cloves are separated with the skin still attached. Perhaps it is what makes it so tasty without an overwhelming garlic flavor.
Last but not least is preserved lemon. I made preserved kumquats for a remedy for sore throat but never preserved lemon. But to my surprise, it adds a distinct flavor to the chicken. I was also surprised as to how much more delicious and flavorful the leftovers are the day after. Maybe next time I should resist the temptation to eat it right away!
The recipe is adapted from Dorie Greenspan's "Around my French Table" with some modifications.
It takes at least a month to make the preserved lemon. Plan ahead. Prepare a big jar with a tight lid that the lemons can fit in. Cut slits in the lemon skin so that the salts can get inside.
Pour in enough coarse salt to cover them.
This is after 6 weeks. The lemon juice fills up the jar almost to the top. It can be kept indefinitely. The longer, the better.
Now, let's turn back to the chicken pot:
1/2 preserved lemon, rinse well
1 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
One 4-5 pound chicken, whole or cut up into 8 pieces
2 mid-size potatoes, cut into small pieces
1 mid-size onion, cut into quarters
3-4 carrots, peeled and cut into small pieces
4 celery stalks, peeled, trimmed and cut into small pieces
4 garlic heads, cloves separated but not peeled
1 tsp salt
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine, or any white wine
1) Boil water with sugar in a small pot. Remove the preserved lemon pulp and rinse well. Cut into small pieces and put into the pot to cook for one minute. Remove and set aside.
2) Mix the salt and the herbs in a small dish and rub it on the chicken, inside and out. Let it marinate for about an hour at room temperature.
3) Preheat the oven to 450F.
4) Sauté and brown all the vegetables and garlic in a pan. Remove. Brown the chicken on both sides.
5) Put all the ingredients in a 4-5 quart Dutch oven, or a oven safe pot big enough to hold everything. Put the lid on.
6) Stick the whole pot into the oven and bake for an hour.