Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Morrocan Christmas Dinner at Alexis' Parents' House

Every year Alexis' family chooses a different theme for Christmas dinner...and they spend all day cooking and drinking. The food always turns out delicious and this year was no different.

Homemade Bread (made by Alexis' dad) and Pan-fried Store-bought Naan

The Whole Meal
So colorful.

The picture above is before we dug into it with our fingers and the picture below is after. b'stilla is a classic Moroccan dish made of shredded chicken and egg layered in phyllo dough and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Alexis' mom made this version, but basically, you boil a chicken in a bunch of spices, including saffron. Then you pull the meat off and set aside. You reserve the cooking juices as stock and cook the beaten eggs in the broth and strain that. Then you mix together the chicken and egg mixture with more spices and layer it between sheets of phyllo that have been brushed with melted butter. You bake it on 350 for about 1/2 an hour, until golden brown, then you turn it over on a plate and sprinkle liberally with powdered sugar. Delicious.

Vegetarian Harira
Usually harira is made with lamb, but we'd been eating a lot of lamb, so we decided to make this version vegetarian and were pleasantly surprised that it was quite good. Harira is a stew made with lentils, chickpeas, and tomatos in a lemony, slightly spicy broth. We also thickened this with a bit of rice. It was perfect when sopped up with some of Alexis' dad's homemade bread.

Chicken with Olives and Preserved Lemon
This dish epitomized Moroccan food, especially in looks. It was pretty tasty as well. Although next time I'd just use dark meat rather than the whole chicken, as the white meat was a little dry.

-1/4 preserved lemon, rinse, pulp discarded, peel cut in thin strips
-1 whole chicken, cut into parts
-1 onion, diced
-5 cloves garlic, minced
-1/2 ts ground ginger
-1 1/2 ts ground cinnamon
-1 pinch saffron
-1 cup kalamata olives (the recipe called for green, but this is what we had and it was fine)
-2 bay leaves
-1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped
-3 cups chicken broth

Brown the chicken pieces in some olive oil and set aside in a large baking dish. In the same pan add the onions and garlic and cook until soft. Add all of the other ingredients, except the browned chicken and cilantro, and cook for a few more minutes. Then pour the sauce over the chicken in the baking dish. Bake on 350 for about 1 and 1/2 hours, or until chicken is very tender. Remove the chicken pieces from the dish and set aside in a covered serving dish. Pour the sauce into a pan and reduce by half, stirring frequently. Pour the sauce over the chicken in the serving dish, then sprinkle with the fresh cilantro.

Cous Cous with Caramelized Onions and Toasted Pinenuts

Prawns in Chermoula
This was one of the stars of the night, made by Alexis' sister. This is also incredibly easy. You make the chermoula below, then toss the raw prawns in it to coat and sautee until just done, about 2 or 3 minutes. You could also use this chermoula on just about any protein.

-1/2 preserved lemon, rinsed, pulp removed and roughly chopped
-3 cloves garlic
-1 large handful fresh cilantro leaves
-juice of 1/2 lemon
-large pinch of saffron
-1/2 ts paprika
-1/2 ts cumin
-1/4 ts cayenne
-1/4 cup olive oil

Put all the ingredients into the food processor and grind into a course paste.

Orange and Radish Salad
This beautiful salad consisted of equal parts fresh orange segments and thinly sliced radish, seasoned with salt and pepper.

Beet and Pomegranate Salad
This salad was made of 3boiled beets, peeled and cut into cubes, a couple of handfuls of fresh pomegranate seeds, 1/2 a thinly sliced red onion and a handful of chopped fresh cilantro. It was dressed in a vinaigrette made from lavender vinegar, olive oil and sweet-hot mustard.

Eggplant Tomato Relish
This is a classic Moroccan side dish.

-1 eggplant, baked and diced
-3 tomatoes, diced
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-3 tb olive oil
-juice of 1 lemon
-salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients together and set aside to meld at room temperature. Eat on thick pieces of crusty bread.

Carrots with Lemon and Mint
These carrots were grown by Alexis' parents and were sweet and fresh tasting. The carrots were steamed until tender, then dressed in lemon juice, fresh chopped mint, salt and pepper.

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