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Jan 1, 2008 06:55 AM

The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen: Chicken, Duck, and Game Birds

January 2008 Cookbook of the Month, The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen by Paula Wolfert.

Please post your full-length reviews of chicken, duck, and game bird recipes here. Please mention the name of the recipe you are reviewing as well as any modifications you made to the recipe.

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  1. Garlic and Lemon-Marinated Chicken Kebabs, p. 141

    I was looking for a quick and low-carb dish using chicken, and this fit the bill. Boneless chicken breast is cut into 1-inch cubes and marinated in mayo, lemon juice, evoo, salt, pepper, garlic, and Middle Eastern spices (p. 312), or ground cinnamon and allspice (I used some Lebanese 7-spice) for 3-4 hours. Broil or grill on skewers - I used the broiler. Simple, dinner was done in 10 minutes, and the chicken was juicy with nice flavor. I served it with one of my favorite COM recipes - "Salata Kudsiyeh" (Jerusalem Salad) from which uses a dressing made with tahini and lemon.

    Salata Kudsiyeh (Jerusalem Salad)

    5 Replies
    1. re: Rubee

      I made this last night. Due to the snowstorm outside I "grilled" the kebabs on the cuisinart griddler. Very good chicken, easy to prepare and quick to make. You just have to allow time for it to marinate.

      1. re: Rubee

        Garlic and Lemon-Marinated Chicken

        This was delicious and ultra simple, really a snap to put together! Perfect for the weeknight rotation. I actually borrowed Rubee's idea for the Jerusalem salad, and cooked the meat under the broiler. We decided to make warm wraps (shawarma-esque) combining Romaine, cucumber, tomato, red onion, the tahini-lemon dressing from that Jerusalem salad, and the warm chicken. A definite keeper! :) Excellent the next day too, maybe even better.

        1. re: Rubee

          This was quick, easy and tasty but it wasn't anything extra special or different than other recipes of this nature. It's not quite a quick dinner for a weeknight though (unless you work from home). the directions are explicit about the marinating time - from 3-4 hours to let the flavors infuse but not have mushy meat.

          I served this with basmati rice and a salad.

          1. re: Rubee

            I made the garlic and lemon-marinated chicken again last night. I guess I haven't made it since January 2008, and that's far too long! This is an EXCELLENT fast no-fuss preparation for boneless skinless chicken breasts. I remembered that the chicken was good, but it actually knocked my socks off with the juiciness!

            Again, as I did last year, I served the chicken in wraps with Romaine, cucumber, tomato, feta, black olives. Excellent. I will elevate this to one of my favorite star COTM recipes because it is simple, fast, and delicious.

            I did grind up the Middle Eastern spice mixture this time, and so now I have a little tub of that, so I can whip this chicken up on any random occasion. Last year I just tossed in the cinnamon and allspice, I think, but I enjoyed adding the spice mixture as recommended by Paula Wolfert. I believe that the spice mixture makes the lemon and garlic pop. The next day I could taste the spices more.

          2. Double-Cooked Red Chicken Marrakech-Style, p 142

            I've made this several times, and it has become one of my favorite dishes to serve for company. I do the first cooking in advance, then I only have 10-15 minutes of cooking to do when the company arrives.

            I do modify this some--instead of whole chickens I use chicken legs because they cook more evenly, don't contain white meat which is easier to overcook, and they give a separate piece to serve to guests rather than having to dissect a whole chicken. I also do the final browning on the grill instead of using the broiler. I definitely use the preserved lemon as garnish as I love their flavor.

            1. Grilled Marinated Guinea Hen p 156

              I did these last night; main idea is that you dip them briefly in boiling, slightly acidulated water, then let dry uncovered in the fridge for a half day. They are brushed with a honey-orange glaze before cooking.

              I wasn't too impressed; in the end it was "chicken". I used cornish game hens that were just about the size she suggested. I wouldn't bother with this again; the Zuni Cafe chicken is simpler and more flavorful. Mine had to cook significantly longer than she suggested, even though I had the oven rack where it was supposed to be. All ovens being different and all...

              1. Expatriate Roast Chicken with Lemons and Olives (pg. 136)

                Short version: this was delicious and required a bit of pre-planning. Very easy with a lot of inactive prep time.

                I had a few concerns but took the leap of faith. I'm so glad I did because this was a heart warming, comfort meal on a snowy evening.


                The recipe was fairly easy. I did make some slight modifications to the recipe because of my unique circumstances. Below is a list of changes/modifications/slight problems I ran into during the course of the prep.

                1. First thing in the am, you prep the chicken by stuffing the cavity with the pulp of preserved lemon, ground ginger cayenne, chopped garlic, pepper and olive oil. I also sprinkled the breast with kosher salt to do a quick dry brine.

                2. 3 hours before serving, take the chicken out to bring it to room temperature. 2 hours before serving is when the bird goes in the oven. Instead of following the directions for the order prescribed, I salted and peppered the chicken on a flat rack (I don't have a V shaped rack). I brushed the bottom of the roasting pan and rack with olive oil. I should have used more oil on the rack as I had some slight sticking issues (more below). On the bottom of the roasting rack, I placed chopped (v. grated) onion, saffron, cinnamon stick and sugar. Then I poured in three cups of water and did a quick stir. Lastly, I placed the chicken rack into the pan.

                3. Place the chicken into the oven. Turn on the oven to 550 degrees for 45 minutes. I used 500 degrees because that is my highest temperature setting. There was no problem because the breast still turned a nice shade of golden brown and the skin crisped up nicely. (Be aware that the drippings and flavored water forms the most delicious smell in the house).

                4. After 45 minutes, reduce the temperature to 275 degrees for a total of 50 minutes. Once the temperature is reduced, flip the bird onto its side and brush with olive oil. Since I didn't have a V rack, I improvised with a metal measuring cup to keep the chicken standing on its side. The basted sides were roasted for 20 minutes a side. Then, flip the bird backside up, baste and roast for 10 more minutes.

                5. sounds easy right? Well, this is where I ran into slight problems. I usually use silicone tongs to flip my roast birds. I like the silicone tongs because the metal edges are coated and thus, protect the chicken skin. I don't know if it's because I salted the breast initially, but I ended up slightly mangling the breast skin and it ripped. I've never had this problem with the Zuni bird. I also had problems because my hand slipped and touched the side of the pan while I was trying to balance the bird onto its side, against the measuring cup. Essentially, I ripped the crisp skin on a number of sides. However, this did not lead to a dry bird and once I carved the chicken, you couldn't really tell.

                6. After roasting, remove the chicken and place on a plate to rest. I didn't take the temperature because it had a long time in the oven at a high/low temperature. The Zuni bird takes an hour on a preheated high/low (but in less extremes) and this birds are always finished properly. I also used the same size bird as I would have for the Zuni bird (just a hair under 4 lbs.).

                7. I put the broth through a defatter container v. trying to skim the sauce. I poured the broth and veggies back in the roasting pan along with chopped green olives and cilantro. This went back into the oven for 20 minutes.

                8. After, carved the chicken, poured gravy over the pieces and poured the remaining gravy into the separate bowl. I also placed (per instructions), sliced preserved lemon peels onto the chicken.

                And, this was fabulous. The chicken was juicy and had the brininess of the olives that were offset by the slight bits of sugar and the tartness of the preserved lemon peels. BTW, when I carved the chicken, the stuff was still in the cavity and I left it there. I thought it would have overwhelmed the gravy.

                I served this with white rice and the greens beans from pg. 53.

                11 Replies
                1. re: beetlebug

                  So glad you went ahead with it--and that it turned out so well. I'm finding this a fun book just because her methods are antithetical to anything I'd learned previously. That they work certainly adds to the enjoyment.

                  BTW, I always turn my Zuni chicken with clean potholder. Makes a mess of the potholders, but it does ensure I don't break the skin. I'm surprised you can do that tongs. Not sure I could.

                  1. re: JoanN

                    I always turn my Zuni chicken using two wooden spoons. Since there's no stuffing in the cavity, I usually put one spoon inside the cavity, which makes it easier. The skin never rips.

                    1. re: JoanN

                      I've never broken the chicken skin with the tongs. I think it's because of the thick silicone coating over the tongs. Plus, since the pot is so hot and the skin is so dry, it's an easy flip.

                      You've hit the nail on the head as to why this book is interesting. Her cooking methods are completely different than what I've always done.

                    2. re: beetlebug

                      Sounds wonderful - but, I hope you didn't burn yourself on the side of the pan.
                      I love this cookbook - everything I've had has been very good. The chicken dish I made from the book (previously) was the one smothered in onion cream, with ham (p. 144) - terrific. But what's not to like there?

                      1. re: mirage

                        No serious burn, my hands move faster than the speed of light ;-). It was more of a shock to make me lose my grip than anything.

                        1. re: beetlebug

                          Funny! I had to put something under the broiler last night, pulled it open and there was a frying pan in there - pulled it out (oven had been on for about an hour) not thinking about the fact that it might be hot - teflon hands these days.

                        2. re: mirage

                          I'm going to try that chicken smothered in delicious creaminess :) in the next few days. Any suggested tweaks? I don't cook with booze, so I'll skip the brandy and use my usual wine fake-out (organic grape juice, a little vinegar, a little stock) which has been perfect in other recipes calling for wine (including the pork stew in this book). :) I can't wait. Of all of the meat recipes, I feel a magnetic pull toward this one, probably because it looks sooooo decadent, and onion-y too :)

                          1. re: foxy fairy

                            Do you think the smothered chicken would improve from a night in the fridge, or must it be served immediately? This is next on my list.

                            1. re: onefineleo

                              No idea how it would hold in the frig - we had no leftovers, IIRC. Chicken can get sort of rubbery and usually I hesitate to hold things with a cream-y sauce, but there isn't that much cream in this one.... If you do it let us know how it worked.

                              Also, just looked at the recipe again - I practically never use chicken breasts. I subbed in thighs.

                        3. re: beetlebug

                          Looks great! Would you make it again?

                          1. re: MMRuth

                            I would make it again and keep the technique the same (chicken in cold oven, etc.) The flavors were just lovely and the gravy is delicious. Hmmm. I still have leftover gravy and rice. I hear a snack calling me. Or, if I'm going to be good, I'll make some other protein and spoon the gravy and rice with it.

                        4. Expatriate Roast Chicken with Lemons and Olives (pg. 136)

                          Jfood does not like posting like this but this was extremely disappointing.

                          Jfood began by making the preserved lemons last week. Shake rattle and roll for a week and your ready. This morning he made the "stuffing" for the bird with the lemon rind, garlic, et.. al, wrapped the bird in paper towels and placed in the fridge. Upon arriving home he took the towels off and looked at the skin. Nice and dried out for hopefully a crsipy dinner. The jfood followed the directions to a "T". 500 degrees, then down to 275, three flips with oiling, the whole nine yards. Let it rest for 20.

                          The bird was 165 when the 10 minutes back-up was done. Unfortunately the residue on the floor of the roasting pan, having lost all the liquid and not having a lot of fat from the bird was waaaay overcooked (PC for burnt). So the sauce that was required on top was non-existent. Now onto the bird itself. Jfood was never a bid fan of the low and slow method and this did nothing to change his mind (even with the first 45 at 500). The meat was chewey, stringy and not juicy at all. Ruined a nice piece of fowl.

                          It was so bad that jfood looked at little jfood and asked how she liked it. A smile, a phone call and a sausage pizza for dinner.

                          Major disappointment in this recipe at casa jfood.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: jfood

                            Sorry to hear about your roast chicken. I wonder what caused the liquids to dry out, maybe your pan was too big? At least your Zuni worked out well.

                            1. re: beetlebug

                              Agreed. jfood used a large roasting pan. probably a mistake in hindsight. Butthat did not effectthe bird itself. Chalk it up to experience.