Chicken Mhamar

One thing I love about this place are their celebrations! There is always something to celebrate, and always a reason to get together and eat. Love it!! Actually one of my first memories of living here was a somewhat random invitation to a neighbor’s henna party. Why were they having a henna party?!? No reason at all! Just a way to be together and do something fun. My heart loves that kind of stuff. Celebration is so important.

Anyway, another way they celebrate is with food. Lots and Lots of food. And just like our Thanksgiving, where the food is always the same ( at least the basic, important ones!), each different party or celebration has the same foods associated with it. One of these is a Saboueh. A Saboueh is basically a baby shower, but 7 days after the baby is born, and usually not less then 100 people. We all crowd into a room, greet and congratulate the new mom, and then eat chicken Mhamar and beef and prunes tagine to our hearts contentment. I have always loved going to these parties because these two dishes are probably my most favorite local food. 🙂

So we set off to make so I didn’t have to wait until another party to eat what I love!!

Here are the ingredients:


1 chicken cut into pieces
1 tsp ginger
A bunch of cilantro tied together
4 cloves of garlic, minced
A strand of saffron
1 tsp salt
2 large onions, sliced
Olive oil
1/2 cup water
1/4 of a preserved lemon in slices (use the skin of all the pieces and the inside of just one piece.)
(There is something here called smen that they often use in cooking. It is basically fermented butter, but a tiny bit gives the dish a fuller flavor. I would just use a little bit of butter in place of it. Maybe 1 tbl added in while the chicken is cooking)

So just to give you a little insight into life and cooking here, I have to tell you about cooking with whole chickens. Since I knew I would be cooking with my friend on Thursday, I had to buy the chicken on Wednesday from my chicken guy.


Then I washed it with water and trimmed it up a little and rubbed it with lemon and salt so it could sit in my fridge overnight.


Ok, so now let’s get to cooking!

Put the sliced onions, chicken, spices and water in a pot over medium heat. Allow this to cook until the chicken is tender, about 30 minutes or so.


When the chicken is done. Remove it, leaving the sauce in the pot. Place the chicken in a 9×13 pan. Mix together the softened butter with 1 string of saffron and spread generously over the pieces of chicken.

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Before you put the chicken in the oven to brown, add the preserved lemon pieces to the sauce pot and cook over low heat.


Put the chicken under the broiler until the chicken is browned and crisp.

When the chicken is finished, place in a deep dish and pour the sauce over top.


Full disclosure: this is how we ate this dish after a particularly busy day and single-momming it for days on end.


There is nothing quite like a tagine picnic (on the floor, in front of the tv) and when you all eat out of one pot, there are no dishes to do. AND my kids were so excited to eat a tagine that there was no complaining about dinner (which seems to be a rare occurrence these days!)

A win, all the way around.


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