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

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

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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 LeitesCulinaria.com 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.

                          2. Slow-Cooked Duck with Olives, p. 148

                            OMG! This was the most tender, succulent duck I've ever had. Just stunning, a real keeper. This is a great make ahead meal too, because both the sauce and the duck get reheated right before serving, in just 10 min.

                            You halve the duck and roast it on a bed of onions and aromatics at 475 for 10 minutes, then cover it with foil and bake at 275 for 3 1/2 hrs. Let cool in the oven for another 1/2 hour, then refrigerate. When ready to serve, broil (10" below the broiler!) for 10 min to crisp the skin and reheat.

                            It really, really worked. I was dubious about the reheating, but the duck heated through, no problem. Although I'm not sure all ovens will let you get 10 inches below the broiler! She says to moisten the skin with 1 tsp of reserved duck fat before broiling, but I forgot, and frankly, am not sure it would make much difference.

                            Before roasting, she says to prick the skin with a fork. Well, her forks must be sharper than mine, or else my duck had tougher skin! I could prick a few places, but not all over, so I used my kitchen shears instead to snip, snip, snip all over, which seemed to work fine.

                            Before refrigerating, she says to quarter the duck and wrap each piece separately in foil or plastic. The duck was so tender, though, that I barely managed to transfer the halves to a plate, so I simply covered the whole thing with plastic wrap and refrigerated. It would be possible to quarter them after they were chilled and firmed up, but I'm not sure what the individual wrapping was supposed to accomplish. (Btw, the duck is delicious cold too.)

                            She doesn't explicitly say to strain and keep the accumulated juices and fat, although it's the obvious thing to do. I got about 2 c. of stock and 1 c. of duck fat out of it.

                            Green Olive Sauce, p. 150

                            You make this while the duck is roasting, using the extra trimmed bits (backbone, neck, etc.). I was dubious about the initial step of slowly browning them in a covered skillet. Initially they put out a lot of moisture and steamed, but eventually (after about 30 min, I think) the water boiled off and they browned beautifully. I simmered the giblets and heart with some canned chicken stock and used that for the 1 c. of poultry stock called for. The sauce was relatively easy, but with the various steps (brown, deglaze, simmer, strain, reduce), I couldn't have left the house while the duck was roasting, as I thought I might. The olives get added at the end, just warmed up in the sauce before serving. Trader Joe's has some pitted green olives (not stuffed) that has a flavor I really like, so I used them.


                            I made this for my husband's birthday dinner. We started with an amuse bouche of sauteed duck liver on toast (convenient, eh?). Then I served the duck as directed, in a pool of green olive sauce (the better to appreciate the crisp skin), along with black rice, which was a gorgeous contrast. We finished with butterhead lettuce dressed with walnut oil and toasted walnuts (no vinegar), dusted with fleur de sel. We intended to have a red wine, but his sinuses were bothering him, so we had a bottle of Bridlewood Viognier instead. It went amazingly well with the duck AND the green olive sauce, maybe even better than a red would have.

                            And just in case you're wondering, we're not big on desserts, so he had a glass of limoncello and I had a glass of Drambuie as 'dessert.'

                            1. Chicken Smothered in Sweet Onion Cream with Country Ham, p. 144.
                              A slow and aromatic cook on a snowy Sunday. Two pounds of sliced Vidalia onions in the LC, along with chopped prosciutto, garlic and bay leaf. Mmmmmm, a lovely start. Brown 3 halved chicken halves, 3 bone-in thighs, and 3 drumsticks (after S&P and flour). Remove chicken and add brandy and white wine. I chickened out (no pun intended) and rather than igniting the alcohol, I boiled it. After adding a 1/2 c of water, I added 1/3 c chopped tomatoes, cooked for 5 min and added 3T heavy cream. The crusty browned chicken goes on top of the onions, then gets topped with the tomato/cream mixture and simmers for 25 min or so. I took the chicken pieces out and boiled the onion sauce til it reduced to 2c.
                              I served this over white rice and we nearly swooned. The heady onion sauce, dotted with bits of prosciutto, is really delectable It was only 3 of us last night (recipe serves 6), so I froze the leftovers......I think it will be fine since there was so little cream.
                              Give this one a try.

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: onefineleo

                                This is on my list but it's jumped to the top. Maybe for superbowl sunday. I'm also worried about lighting the liquid on fire and may do the same as you.

                                1. re: onefineleo

                                  I think I'm being dense. For the boned in chicken breasts, they are supposed to be cut crosswise in half. Isn't that the direction which isn't natural for serving (isn't lengthwise the natural cut down the breastbone to make it 2 breast halves?)

                                  1. re: beetlebug

                                    Another reason to substitute thighs for the breasts!!

                                    1. re: mirage

                                      My natural inclination, but for the fact that C prefers white meat. It works out well though, especially when I do whole birds, I get all the dark and he gets all the white.

                                    2. re: beetlebug


                                      It's a half of a breast half.

                                      1. re: onefineleo

                                        Thanks. That makes a lot more sense. Essentially, a quarter of a whole breast.

                                    3. re: onefineleo

                                      I liked this but I didn't love it. I also wouldn't make it again. To be fair, I was in a fit to be tied by the time I finished cooking it. The cooking times were way off, pushing dinner back by over an hour. Because of the delay, I didn't simmer the juices down to 2 cups. I had at least twice that amount of liquid. I did boil it down some (probably about 10 minutes) and then gave up.

                                      So, here is a run down of the off times:

                                      1. sweating the onions - book said 1 1/4 hours. Mine took at least 1 3/4 hours. I did have very thin slices of onion too.

                                      2. Simmer time for the white (15 minutes) and dark (25-30 minutes). I had 4 quarters of breast, 3 thighs and 3 legs. The cooking times were about twice as long as stated in the book.

                                      3. Reducing the liquid - mentioned above. You can see in the picture how much liquid I have.

                                      I did light my brandy on fire. It wasn't as scary as I thought it would be. Upon reflection, the flame wasn't going to be huge because it was only 2 T. I'm not sure it added anything though.

                                      The dish did taste good but after all the self imposed aggravation I wanted it to be great. I paired this with white rice and a salad.

                                      With all this, I am looking forward to the frozen leftovers next week. I'm glad to read that it held up well in the freezer.

                                    4. Pan Grilled Duck Breast with Chanterelles, Dried Apricots and Almonds (pg. 146)

                                      This was delicious even with my slight mistakes and substitutions. This was my first time cooking a duck breast and I found the directions to be lacking in detail.

                                      Instead of chanterelles (which were selling for $30 a lb), I used crimini mushrooms. I kept the technique the same though. Moreover, I used slivered almonds instead of whole blanched almonds. Also, instead of using two skillets, I used one. I first made the mushroom sauce, then poured into a bowl, then I used the same skillet for the duck breast.

                                      I scored the duck breast and seasoned it with salt and pepper. I then began to make the mushroom sauce. I sauteed the mushrooms until they began to squeak. Next, I added cut up apricots, shallots and butter. After I couple of minutes, I added stock and cooked the mushrooms until they were tender. I poured this into a bowl and wiped the skillet out.

                                      In the skillet, I melted butter and then added the duck breast, flesh side down (sketchy directions, it says to add butter and the duck breast. It reads as if the butter isn't to be melted). I neglected to add stock to deglaze the skillet but it didn't seem to effect the flavor. Next, I flipped the duck breast over on to the skin side and cooked and defatted for over 20 minutes (recipe states 15 but I could have even gone longer because there was still a substantial amount of fat under the skin). I cooked until it looked like it was finished, but even looking at the directions and time, it was still a bit undercooked.

                                      Lastly, the breast is placed to the side, the fat is poured off and the skillet is deglazed. The mushroom sauce is poured back in and lemon juice is added to the gravy. Lastly, add the almonds and chives (I didn't have chives). Slice the duck and serve.

                                      As I stated above, the cooking time for the duck is off. My duck was a muscovy and exactly one lb. I cooked for a longer period of time and it was still very rare. I also had too much fat underneath the skin.

                                      But, this was delicious even with a different kind of mushroom. Now that I've made a duck breast, I know what to look for and can adjust accordingly.

                                      6 Replies
                                      1. re: beetlebug

                                        That duck looks beautiful. Overall, would you recommend this cookbook? Not that I need another one given my trip this weekend to Kitchen Arts & Letters.

                                          1. re: beetlebug

                                            Chicken Smothered in Sweet Onion Cream with Country Ham, p. 144. Nice to know that this freezes so well. Last night, we ate the defrosted leftovers from a couple of weeks back...... just delicious, served over rice. I'm going to add this dish to my list of recipes for the "frozen pantry." I also particularly liked the use of halved breast halfs and next time will sub more bone-in thighs for the drumsticks. So glad to have discovered this recipe,

                                        1. re: beetlebug

                                          Chanterelles were $30 a lb??!!!! Omigod, where do you live? Fiji? They're less than half that amount here in SFBayarea. I admit I haven't looked at the prices for a couple of weeks.

                                          I always figure that most mushrooms (espec chants) weigh so little that you can get a goodly amount for not too much money.

                                          1. re: oakjoan

                                            It's a problem here in Manhattan too - I think they are about $9 a quarter pound - I often substitute something else depending on how flush I'm feeling!

                                            1. re: oakjoan

                                              I wish I lived in Fiji. It's sleeting or something right now here in the Boston area. Whole Foods didn't even have them and I found them at a local gourmet cheese store in my neighborhood (Formaggio in Cambridge). I damn near had a heart attack when I saw the price tag.

                                              I would have bought some too, but for the fact that the recipe called for half a pound of them. I couldn't justify buying $15 worth of mushrooms when the duck breast was less than that.

                                              I'm always jealous of the west coast's access to produce. Last time I was in SF (in October), I went to that grocery outlet that's close to Zuni and was amazed at the produce prices. Plus, the sheer variety at the time of year. Sigh. I love New England, but I love summer veggies more than winter ones.

                                          2. This cookbook is my favourite in my collection. It's simply wonderful.