Before the development of the poultry industry in Morocco in the 1970s, it was customary to go to the market and pick out a live chicken.


The chickens were large, and the meat really needed to be soaked and braised or it would be extremely tough. The breed of chicken, a beldi, is equivalent to some of the free-range artisan chickens sold in the US. And this is still what I prefer to use, pure poultry raised by hardworking farmers who take pride in their product. Though it is not as critical in a recipe like this, which marinates the meat in spices and herbs, I still encourage you to seek out the purest ingredients available to you. 

Look for preserved lemons in specialty and Middle Eastern grocery stores.

Start by stiring all of the charmoula ingredients together in a large bowl.

Trim the chicken breasts of any excess fat and remove the tenders. Cut the breasts and tenders into 1½-inch (3 cm) pieces. Add the chicken pieces to the charmoula, turning to coat them, and refrigerate overnight, or for at least 6 hours.

Soak 6 long wooden skewers in cold water to cover for at least 20 minutes (or plan on using metal ones).

Next, make the vinaigrette: Whisk the olive oil, lime juice and parsley together. Stir in the preserved lemon and set aside.

Preheat a grill to medium-high heat, or heat a large cast-iron grill pan over medium-high heat on your stovetop. 

Lift a quarter of the chicken pieces from the marinade, letting any excess stay in the bowl. Skewer the pieces, leaving about ¼ inch (6 mm) between them so the chicken will cook evenly. Repeat with the remaining chicken and skewers. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Lay the skewers on the hot grill or grill pan and don’t move until well marked, 2 to 3 minutes. Rotate the skewers 90 degrees and grill to mark with a crosshatch pattern, about 1 minute more. Turn the skewers over and grill until the chicken is cooked through, about 2 minutes.

Carefully remove the chicken from the skewers to a bowl. Add just enough of the vinaigrette to lightly coat the meat and serve with any remaining vinaigrette on the side.

Reprinted with permission from The Immigrant Cookbook, Leyla Moushabeck, ed. 2018, Interlink Books, 978-1-56656-038-2, $35 hb, www.interlinkbooks.com.

Arriving in California from Marrakesh in 1985 to study, a homesick Mourad Lahlou began to channel his mother and aunts as they prepared traditional Moroccan dishes at home. He started to cook for himself, then for friends. He completed a master’s degree in macroeconomics, but the lure of the kitchen pulled him from his doctorate, and he opened his first restaurant, in San Rafael, California, in 1997. He then opened Aziza, named after his mother, in San Francisco in 2001. In 2009 he won Iron Chef America, and in 2010 Aziza became the first Moroccan restaurant to receive a Michelin star. He is the author of Mourad: New Moroccan (Artisan, 2011).