I type these words surrounded by the exotic aroma of Moroccan Chicken roasting in the oven. This is the second time I’ve made it in a week. It’s THAT good!
(This is a post from my dear friend, Jill, who helps around the blog and has written super helpful posts here in the past: See all of Jill’s posts here, including more like these: Homemade Deodorant Powder, 6 Elements of Nutrient Dense Foods, How Real Foodies Care for Their Loved Ones with Cancer, and How to Fight Depression and Anxiety Naturally. Note that there are affiliate links below to help support the blog, but the cost is the same for you. Here’s Jill…)
First, let me give credit where credit is due. These recipes are adaptations of two recipes from one of my favorite cookbooks, Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfilippo, which you can read more about in the bottom half of this post.
A wonderful feature of this cookbook is all of the informative and helpful sections it contains, like Kitchen Basics, where I got this recipe’s spice blend from. It is in this section that Diane teaches foundational skills for real food cooking—like how to chop an onion and other vegetables, mix your own spice blends and make bone broth, clarified butter/ghee, and sauerkraut.
She calls this a Cooling Spice Blend (page 232) because of the anti-inflammatory spices it contains, but I noticed it’s a very Moroccan blend as well. It inspired my adaptation of her Citrus & Herb Whole Roasted Chicken (page 256) when I turned back to the page for the Herb Salt Blend her roasted chicken recipe calls for. Once I saw THIS blend, I suddenly realized I was in the mood for Moroccan Chicken!
The first time I made this Moroccan Chicken recipe, I only roasted half a chicken over the veggies. It turned out perfectly.
- 1 whole chicken, preferably organic or pasture raised (Find safe, pastured chicken here if you don't have a good local source.)
- 1 onion, cut into large chunks
- 2-4 large carrots, cut into thick slices on the diagonal
- a handful pitted Kalamata or green olives (optional)
- 4-6 cloves of garlic, smashed
- 1 lemon, halved
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup softened butter
- Optional addition: 2-3 drops high quality lemon essential oil for more intense lemon flavor. This is also works great if you're out of lemons and need the flavor.
Moroccan (Cooling) Spice Blend:
(Amounts are 1/3 of the original recipe since I was only using it for one dish.)
1. Preheat over 375*.
2. Place carrots, onions, and optional olives in the bottom of a roasting pan.
3. Dry chicken with paper towels (because butter only sticks to dry chicken), set near roasting pan.
4. Combine butter with Moroccan Spice blend and optional lemon essential oil in a small bowl. Rub butter/spice mixture all over chicken, including between the skin and breast meat. Place chicken on top of vegetables. Squeeze lemon halves over the top of everything. Place garlic cloves and squeezed lemon halves inside the chicken.
5. Roast, uncovered, until thermometer placed between the leg and breast reaches 165 degrees, between 1 to 2 hours, depending on size of chicken (about 20 minutes per pound).
Did you make a real food recipe?
Even though this recipe is adapted from a Paleo cookbook, it is really heavenly served alongside mashed potatoes, rice or other starch so you have something absorbent to spoon the delicious cooking juices over. (As you can see in the pic, sometimes I turn those pan juices into gravy by simmering briefly in a pot and whisking in a slurry of 1-2 Tablespoons arrowroot starch and about 1/4 cup cold water.) If you are grain free, try it with cauliflower rice (recipe below) or mashed cauliflower (cauliflower steamed till soft, then pureed with butter and salt/seasonings/garlic, in the style of mashed potatoes).
This recipe follows the same procedure as Moroccan Chicken with the following ingredient changes:
Spice Blend (based on the Herb & Lemon Salt Blend on page 230):
Method 1 (which I used): Combine all spice blend ingredients including butter. Use this to rub entire chicken with before roasting. Try to separate the skin on the breast and rub some of it between the skin and the breast meat for extra flavor. Stuff the chicken with the halved lemons you zested and squeezed over everything, as well as a few smashed garlic cloves and onion slices, more salt and pepper, and a few sprigs of leftover rosemary if you have any.
Method 2 (called for in the book): Brush the chicken with melted butter, then sprinkle on the spice blend. Stuff chicken with cut up lemons, onion, and garlic.
Instead of placing the chicken on top of sliced carrots and chunks of onion I used cubed butternut squash and sliced onion this time, which I tossed with minced garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Roasted butternut squash is divine, and it pairs perfectly with rosemary (plus I was out of carrots).
I had the lid on part way through the roasting time, which resulted in a lot of pan juices! Next time I will leave the lid off the entire time, especially if I use butternut squash.
I served this with cauliflower “rice” since the Practical Paleo cookbook put me in more of a Paleo mood.
Did you make a real food recipe?
If you're on a low-carb diet or just want to try something new, try this cauliflower “rice” recipe.
Cauliflower “Rice” (a grain-free rice alternative)
Sauté grated cauliflower and garlic in butter until tender (I usually cover it with the lid part way through to steam it along). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in optional green onions.
Did you make a real food recipe?
Note: Be sure to save the bones after you eat the chicken, as well as the neck if it is included (you can even freeze them for later) for making bone broth (learn how here)! Also, If your chicken comes with giblets, be sure to save the liver and heart for Diane's incredible pâté recipe in the book! I freeze my chicken livers and hearts from giblet bags until I have enough to make pâté.
Practical Paleo Cookbook Review:
After I bought this cookbook for myself, I bought a second copy for my 20 year old son. Not only does he prefer to eat a more Paleo style diet, but this cookbook is ideal for a young adult or teenager who’s fairly new to cooking for themselves. The recipes are incredibly simple to make plus the section on Kitchen Basics (mentioned above) covers some the most important foundational skills for real food cooking.
Besides that, there are few cookbook authors who have come close to producing such a complete, useful, and customizable guide to healthy eating as Diane Sanfilippo has done in Practical Paleo.
In the first section, The Why—Food and Your Body, after Diane clearly defines the Paleo approach to diet, she provides a nutrition primer including what is wrong with both the Standard American Diet (SAD) AND conventional dietary recommendations (cough…USDA Food Pyramid and their newer MyPlate). Readers learn how to healthfully navigate grocery stores, prioritize their food budget, the truth about healthy fats and oils, the healthiest menu options at various types of restaurants, and how to travel without compromising a healthy diet.
Her section on the digestive system, what can go wrong with each part and how to fix it, is excellent. Of course no discussion of the digestive system would be complete without a guide to poop, which Diane turned into a pageant with the contestants representing different types of stool from the Bristol Stool Chart (very clever and informative—my son got a kick out of it!). The topic of leaky gut is covered with wonderful illustrations that make it easy to understand, as well as an explanation for how food intolerances can develop and be reversed (similar in concept to the GAPS Diet — find out more about GAPS here).
Readers learn how to heal a leaky gut, optimize digestion, and stabilize their blood sugar while getting enough healthy carbs on a Paleo diet. They also learn about more sophisticated food sensitivity topics like FODMAPS (fermentable-oligo-di-monosaccharides-and-polyols), a type of carbohydrate present in some foods that are difficult for some people to digest, and why nightshades (a family of plants including peppers and eggplants) can be problematic for others. She covers commonly asked questions about caffeine, alcohol, cholesterol, gaining muscle, losing weight, supplements, and more. The first section of Practical Paleo is a well-rounded mini-course in nutrition that covers a surprising amount of ground in under 100 pages without making the reader feel overwhelmed with information.
The next section, 30-Day Meal Plans, was clearly a labor of love. In it you will find 11 different 30-day meal plans (all recipes provided in book) designed to address specific health conditions and goals. Whether a person has a neurological, autoimmune, digestive, or thyroid disorder they will find a special 30-day meal plan, supplement recommendations, and lifestyle and dietary considerations just for them. MS, Fibromyalgia, and Chronic Fatigue, as well as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes sufferers have their own sections. There are 30-day plans for people trying to lose weight or optimize athletic performance, and even one for the die-hard Paleo enthusiast (Squeaky Clean Paleo). The meal plans alone are worth the price of the book.
Every meal of the day, salads, sides, sauces and dips, sweets and treats are covered in the Recipe section, along with big, crisp, beautiful photos of each recipe. These recipes work. They are simple and straight-forward enough for a novice, yet fresh and inspired enough to keep an experienced cook returning for more.
I will add that the Chicken Liver Pâté (page 384) is out of this world and I really don’t like liver. For the faint of heart who would like to add organ meats to their diet but just can’t bring themselves to do it, this recipe has so many delicious ingredients—dijon mustard, red wine, garlic, onions, herbs—that any liver “yuck factor” gets completely lost in the complexity of everything else. I’ve made it several times now—as is, with 1/2 chicken liver and 1/2 chicken hearts (excellent), and the last time with extra dijon (what a great addition). Every time it gets devoured by my entire family, plus I have found it freezes well in case you want to make a larger batch.
Finally, at the very end of the book, Diane provides handy Tear-Out Guides to Paleo foods, stocking a pantry, choosing quality food, fats & oils, cooking fats, Paleo carbs, sweeteners, and gluten.
Practical Paleo is a 400+ page Magnum Opus and one of my go-to resources for information, inspiration, and great recipes. Highly recommended for new cooks, “old” cooks looking for new inspiration, anyone with specific health challenges or goals, athletes, those desiring an easy-to-digest primer on nutrition and gut health, and certainly folks who need a more structured guide for a strong start on their path to wellness. I almost forgot to mention that it's also great for those wishing to begin a Paleo diet!
About Jill: My husband and I live in Waco, TX, along with our two awesome young adult kids (AND now in Dallas during the week while my husband attends chiropractic college). I have a small business, selling handmade personal and home care products at our farmer’s market and local retail sites. I am also Kelly’s blog assistant. 🙂 I am passionate about real food nutrition, natural health, local food, and I love to cook. Fortunately we have access to lots of local food via Waco’s fantastic year-round farmer’s market, nearby farms, and even a grocery store that sources much of its food locally.