Fifty Tetouani ways to serve chicken
From Couscous and other good food from Morocco
by Paula Wolfert. page 185
Mr. Mehdi Bennouna, chief of the Agence Maghreb Arabe Presse in Rabat, told me a story about chicken that is absolutely true. During the period of struggle against the French, he and several friends who were members of the Istiqlal (Independence party) used to meet once a week in Tangier to discuss politics, play cards, and enjoy each other's Company. Each would bring a tagine from home, and when it was time for lunch would share it with his friends.
One of the men, like Mr. Bennouna, was from the city of Tetouan. One day he told the others that in Tetouan there were fifty ways to prepare chicken, each different and each delicious. Those who were not from Tetouan laughed, an argument broke out, and finally bets were laid down.
Once a week, over the next year, the man brought a different Tetouan-style chicken dish to the meetings. As each week passed he amazed and astounded his friends with increasingly interesting and delicious variations. Anticipation mounted, and a list of the dishes was compiled. On the fiftieth week they assembled, eager to taste the final piece de resistance. The man arrived with the same pot that had offered up so many great chicken preparations, opened it, reached inside, and pulled out a whole uncooked chicken.
What's this?" asked his friends.
"Chicken with feathers," he answered, and then with a smile: "Why not? It comes naturally that way."
He won the bet.
After he told me this story 1 asked Mr. Bennouna if he could remember any of the other dishes. In an incredible tour de force he rattled off all but two of them. Here is that list, in the order in which Mr. Bennouna gave it to me:
1. Chicken braised and fried (mahammer)
2. Chicken in highly spiced sauce with lemon and olives (emshmel)
3. Chicken in ginger sauce with lemon and olives (makalli)
4. Chicken stuffed with rice and tomatoes, steamed
5. Chicken stuffed with sweet couscous, served with sweet sauce
6. Chicken stuffed with salted couscous, served with brown sauce
7. Chicken stuffed with sheriya, fried in oil or roasted
8. Chicken stuffed with ground almonds, fried in oil or roasted
9. Chicken stuffed with celery and onions, served with savory sauce
10. Chicken stuffed with giblets
11. Chicken stuffed with bakoola (a wild herb) and garlic, steamed
12. Chicken stuffed with diced vegetables (artichokes, peas, carrots, and so on)
13. Steamed chicken served with cumin and salt
14. Chicken with layers of onions and tomatoes (kammamma)
15. Chicken with coriander, onions, fried almonds, and eggs (tafaya)
16. Chicken, Fez style, with smen, parsley, and sliced hard-boiled eggs
17. Chicken smothered in sweet tomato jam (matisha mesla)
18. Chicken smothered with green olives (meslalla)
19. Chicken with lemon and eggs (masquid bil beid)
20. Chicken, 1)raised, fried, and coated with spic)., eggs (mefemled)
21. Chicken with smen, chick-peas, and almonds (kdra touimiya)
22. Chicken with smen, rice, almonds, and parsley
23. Barbecued chicken (mechoui)
24. Boiled chicken (mafooar)
25. Bisteeya, Tetufin style, with plenty of lemons
26. Couscous with bite-sized pieces of chicken m a cinnamon-flavored sauce ( seffa merdurma )
27. Chicken couscous with vegetables
28. Chicken with pastry leaves (trid)
29. Chicken with quince, honey, amber, and aga wood*
30. Chicken with quince and onions
31. Boned chicken wrapped in an omelet made with peas
32. Chicken in tagine with a vegetable (string beans, fennel, carrots, etc. )
33. Chicken simmered in smen
34. Chicken with prunes and almonds in honey sauce
35. Chicken with raisins
36. Chicken with fried eggplant (derbel)
37. Chicken with fried zucchini
38. Chicken with fried pumpkin, sweetened
39. Chicken cooked with spices (cumin and coriander seeds) to make khelea (preserved meat)
40. Sweet chicken couscous with onions, raisins, and chick-peas
41. Chicken served with giblet sauce, onions, chopped olives, and lemons
42. Chicken stuffed with mint
43. Chicken stuffed with kefta (chopped spiced lamb or beef)
44. Chicken cooked with the spices used for fish (the marinade charmoula)
45. Chicken with fried almonds
46. Roast chicken
47. Chicken with raisins, chick-peas, and onions
48. "Can't remember."
49. "Can't remember."
50. Chicken with feathers!
Tetouanis just one of the great gastronomic centers of Morocco. Think of the chicken dishes invented by the cooks of Fez, Marrakech, and other cities and regions!
* Aga wood is oud kamerie in Arabic, a hard, fragrant brown substance that is easily pounded to powder. Amber is Arabic for ambergris--not the fossilized yellow amber worn by Berber women on necklaces, nor the gray brown aromatic called ambrette that is used in coffee, in tagines, m fas el hanout and is called "the herb from Cyprus" when amber is not available. True ambergris until recently arrived in Morocco in caravans from Timbuktu or was found washed up on the southwestern shores of Morocco (nearTiznit) after having been ejected by sperm whales. Soft and waxy, it is used to perfume food by many peoples, including the Chinese, who call it "dragon's saliva"; in the Middle Ages it was used to perfume sherbets and tea. Its aromatic properties were evidently highly potent. Alexander Dumas Pere invented a tonic of ambergris, chicken stock, and sugar to invigorate tired middle aged husbands.
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