Buried In Vermicelli (Shaariya Medfouna)
The cuisine of Morocco combines complex blends of spice with sweet flavors of honey or sugar. Many dishes straddle the line between sweet and savory. Diners often find a beautiful jewel presented to them as they uncover a tender lamb shank from a mound of couscous or some slowly cooked chicken in earthy and sweet spices buried in sweet onions and small pieces of steamed vermicelli that are almost feather-like. The surprise is what lies underneath and inside.
From Fez, this Moroccan chicken dish (named Shaariya Medfouna), is hiding under a mound of crushed vermicelli.
BURIED IN VERMICELLI (Shaariya Medfouna)
4 Boneless skinless chicken thighs, or 4 Long Island duck legs
3 cups water
2 large onions, sliced
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon saffron threads or powder
Salt and pepper, to taste
½ teaspoon of ground turmeric
5 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon orange flower water (optional)
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup chopped fresh coriander
½ cup toasted marcona almonds
1 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound dried vermicelli nests
2 teaspoons of demerera sugar
½ teaspoon of sea salt or fleur de sel
½ teaspoon smoked cinnamon
1. Use one 3 quart sauté pan. Over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of butter and ½ tablespoon of vegetable oil. When the butter begins to brown, add the onions and cook until they begin to soften and turn translucent. Add the turmeric, saffron, ginger & cinnamon and continue to cook until the onions get sticky and soft.
2. Season the chicken or duck legs on both sides with salt. Tuck them under the onion mixture and add the water to the pan. You can push the onions to one side of the pan, add the thighs in one even layer and then smother the onions over the thighs.
3. Cover and simmer on very low heat for 35 minutes until the thighs are tender when squeezed with a pair of tongs and the onions have melted into the sauce. You can also put this stew in the oven, covered at 350 for 45 minutes. You should have enough liquid left in the pan to make a broth for the stew. You can always add another cup of water.
4. Whisk 4 tablespoons of the butter into the liquid, then the honey, and orange flower water, if using. Simmer 2 minutes more. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if you like. Stir in the parsley and coriander.
5. Grind the toasted almonds in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Stir in cinnamon, sugar and fleur de sel then set aside.
6. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Working in a large bowl, crush the vermicelli nests with your hands. Drop the pasta into the boiling water and cook, stirring often at the beginning, for 5 minutes or until it is tender but still has some bite. Drain and return to the pot.
7. Cut the remaining 6 tablespoons butter into small pieces. Stir them into the pasta with salt.
8. Cover the chicken stew with the vermicelli and sprinkle the top with the almond mixture. Serve right in the pan.