We had not been seeing Harley at the Farmers' Market so we dropped by the farm and checked out the farmstand. We didn't see Harley, but the farmstand was there, and someone was gathering the eggs, greens and other goodies. The eggs were as good as ever, and having loaded up on these wonderful certified organic eggs, we decided it was time to take one of our Dry Creek Farm stewing hens out of the freezer and cook Moroccan.
The dish you see on the right does not look like much. Yes, that is a later of eggs and herbs on top. The black things sticking out of it are kalamatas olives, and the yellow things are bits of pickled lemon. Underneath it all lies the savory cooked hen. We use the recipe in Paula Wolfert's immortal Couscous and Other Good Food From Morocco, but in some ways ours is more farm house authentic. After all, what sensible Moroccan house wife would serve up a hen who was still laying eggs. Sure, the local emir might serve up some spring chickens, but the real home recipe was probably a version adapted for stewing hens.
The secret is simple. Just ignore Paula Wolfert's timing and cook the hen until the meat is tender, about two hours in our case. We've adapted her recipe for Djej Masquid Bil Beid:
We rub our stewing hen with garlic and salt then put it in a big pot with 1 cup chopped parsley, 3 cloves of garlic, 1 cup grated onion, a pinch of salt, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1 tsp black pepper, 1/4 cup of butter, a pinch of saffron, and 3 cinnamon sticks. We fill with water to cover the bird and then bring it to a boil and simmer it forever, maybe two hours, maybe longer. The meat should be tender, taste it.
Then, we put the chicken in a deep baking dish, tossing any loose skin, bones and the cinnamon sticks and we cook down the boiling liquid while we crack and beat a dozen eggs and add two dozen split, pitted kalamatas olives, a couple of salt cured lemons and 1/2 cup of chopped parsley. When the liquid has cooked down perhaps by a factor of two, maybe a bit more, we pour it over the chicken and then pour on the egg mixture which will comprise the upper layer.
To finish, we put the casserole covered in a 350F oven with the lid on for about 20 minutes. Then we take off the lid and let the eggs brown, raising the oven temperature if we are in a hurry.
The Dry Creek Farm Honor Stand
Chicken Meshmel also known as Djej Masquid Bil Beid