Braised saffron chicken with preserved lemon, green olives and onions [Recipe]


Braised saffron chicken with preserved lemon, green olives and onions closeup

Related Articles

Succulent, flavorful and juicy, this one-pot-wonder chicken recipe is a hands-down winner. It originally came from Jayne Cohen's book Jewish Holiday Cooking. For more great family dinners, visit MealsOnHeelsByMindy.com.




For the preserved lemon

Prepare one week ahead and once sealed, they’ll last up to a year refrigerated.

  • 6 medium lemons, rinsed and stickers removed

  • 1/2 cup coarse kosher salt

  • 1.5 cups fresh lemon juice

  • 1 large dry wide-mouth container with plastic lid for sealing


For the marinade

  • Several saffron threads

  • 2 tablespoons boiling hot water in a cup

  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin oil (divided into 2 tablespoons and 3 tablespoons)

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 3/4 to 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon sweet or smoked paprika


For the chicken

  • 5 pounds skinless chicken thighs and legs, fat and gristle removed

  • 4 yellow onions, peeled, quartered and grated in a food processor (yields 2 cups)

  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

  • 1 cup brined and pitted green olives, chopped (I like organic Greek olives)

  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

  • Fresh chopped flat-leafy parsley and cilantro for garnish



  1. Sprinkle bottom of glass container with 2 tablespoons coarse kosher salt.

  2. Cut lemons by first snipping off ends. Quarter lemons lengthwise, but don’t cut through so they remain attached at one end.

  3. Thoroughly cover each lemon with salt inside and out. Close up lemons before packing them tightly into the container. Push down on them with a wooden spoon to help release juices. Add lemon juice, covering the salted lemons completely. Shake jar. Add 2 more tablespoons salt and close. Store in cool, dark and dry place for a week. Turn jar once a day for one week to redistribute the salted lemon juice.

  4. After a week, the lemon rinds should be soft and ready for use. Gently pour some olive oil on top of mixture, then seal and store in refrigerator until use.

  5. Crumble saffron thread into cup of hot water. Steep for 10 minutes.

  6. Combine garlic, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika and ground cumin into a food processor. Pulse until combined. Pour in saffron threads with hot water. Process until a loose paste is formed.

  7. Place chicken in a large bowl, then pour marinade on top. Using fingers, spread mixture all over each piece of chicken until well-coated. Place in large freezer bags and store in refrigerator lying flat for at least 4 to 6 hours, preferably overnight.

  8. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

  9. Remove chicken from refrigerator and bring to room temperature.

  10. Scrape marinade off chicken and set aside for use later.

  11. Brown chicken in a Dutch oven over medium high heat with remaining olive oil.

  12. Sauté until each side of chicken is golden brown. Remove chicken and place on a platter. Set aside.

  13. Add grated onions and chicken broth to Dutch oven pan. Raise heat to high and bring to a boil. Be sure to stir in all the yummy brown bits with a wooden spoon while cooking.

  14. Stir in reserved marinade and turn heat to low or simmer. Return chicken to Dutch oven.

  15. Seal the Dutch oven with foil then place its lid on top.

  16. Place Dutch oven in heated oven and cook for 45 minutes to 60 minutes, braising with pan juices and flipping chicken a few times during the cooking process.

  17. Remove chicken from Dutch oven and set aside. Boil juices atop stove until liquids reduce to 1.5 cups. Add peel of 2 preserved lemons (if too salty, rinse lemons before adding) to Dutch oven with juice and onions. Add chopped green olives. Stir. Cook a few minutes then add 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice and fresh chopped herbs. Spoon sauce over chicken on a platter. Garnish with extra whole olives, lemon wedges and chopped herbs. Serves 6-8.