Sicilian Lemon Chicken with Green Olives and Capers

Early in the Tenth Century, the Moors of North Africa conquered Sicily and for more than 200 years they transformed the cuisine of this ancient, once Greek island. To this day, many of the classic Sicilian meals trace their origin to the highly sophisticated Moors, who brought with them oranges and lemons, rice and saffron, cloves and nutmeg, raisins and cinnamon, and crucially they brought couscous to soak up all those exotic flavors. I have always loved the aromatic and intoxicating spices and aromas of the cooking of North Africa, and this meal is a fusion of that exotic cuisine with this haunting and somehow tragically beautiful rugged land called Sicily.

The funeral scene from The Godfather 2 captures all the beauty and tragedy of Sicily.

​This beautiful iconic meal is a Sicilian feast amazing for its simplicity.  It speaks to us of rustic lands, a hot sun, and a robust full of life people with a reverence for tradition and the family harvest table.

Ingredients

8 chicken thighs, skin off and bone in, lightly salted (we use Smart chicken or Mary’s brand, which is air chilled and free range)

8 to 10 carrots, depending on size, peeled, cut 1 1/2 inch long, and split in half

2 lemons, sliced 1/4 inch thick

1 cup of pitted large green olives, with pimentos inside, or Sicilian green olives, cut in half, or the neon green gorgeous Castelvetuano olives, pitted and cut in half

2 serrano or jalapeno peppers, seeded, chopped fine

5 big cloves of garlic, crushed

1 cup of ALREADY reduced rich chicken broth (we boil down the bones of a roasted or rotisserie chicken)

1/4 cup of capers

1 cup of rough chopped Italian parsley

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste

1 cup rice flour

4 oz butter

Prep Work

Place 3 to 4 cups of chicken broth into a 12 inch pan, NOT a cast iron pan, and over medium heat, reduce the broth until you have a thicker liquid totaling 1 cup.

 Cooking

Place HALF of the sliced lemons into a cast iron pan holding heated olive oil and fry them until browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove and put aside. Remove the oil from the cast iron pan and set aside.

​Melt the butter in the same cast iron pan and fry the carrots until browned, about 10 minutes. Remove, lightly salt and pepper, and set aside.  Dip both sides of each thigh onto a plate holding the rice flour and shake off the loose flour.

​Pour the now cool olive oil into the largest cast iron pan and add the crushed garlic. SLOWLY heat until fragrant, so the oils are infused with garlic, which should nearly disappear into the oils.

​When the oil is hot but BEFORE the garlic is browned, place the 8 thighs into the pan.  Fry the chicken on both sides until browned on both sides, about ten minutes on each side.

Now transfer 4 of the 8 thighs into each of the cast iron pans. Add equal parts of the olives, capers, carrots, ALL the lemons and the reduced broth into each cast iron pan. Bring to simmer, cover both pans, cook for 10 minutes or until the meat is tender, almost falling off the bone, and has a burnished beautiful patina.  See the video below as this feast begins to show it’s patina…

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Sprinkle both the parsley on top. Your family will love this soulful feast.  ​If you only want to cook for two, use four thighs and reduce all the ingredients by half.