Chermoula is a marinade or sauce used in Moroccan and other North African cuisines; it is typically used on seafood, but also may be used to flavor chicken and other meats.* Chermoula usually contains garlic, oil, herbs (frequently cilantro), lemon (I’ve seen both pickled lemon and/or lemon juice used), and spices (such as cumin, paprika, and/or cayenne pepper). The bright, fresh flavors in chermoula add a vibrant, refreshing quality and punch of flavor to whatever dish it’s used in.
I made a few changes to the traditional chermoula to really make this lovely condiment my own. I added golden raisins for a little sweetness and instead of cilantro I used a combination of fresh parsley and mint (because that’s what I grow and have readily available). Lastly, instead of preserved lemon (which I forgot to pick up at the market), I used both lemon zest and juice. Feel free to adapt this recipe to suit your preferences or what you have on hand.
In this meal I used the chermoula in two different ways: as a stuffing rolled up inside the chicken, and thinned out into a sauce to dress the pilaf. Everything ended up being delicious; the chicken was tender and juicy and full of bright, fresh flavors that paired beautifully with the earthy, nutty flavor of the bulgur pilaf.
(Yield: 4 servings)
2 large carrots, sliced into thin rounds
4 TB olive oil, divided
1/4 c golden raisins/sultanas
1 1/4 c chopped fresh parsley, divided
1/4 c chopped fresh mint
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small white onion, finely chopped
1 tsp lemon zest
3 TB lemon juice, divided
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (more or less to taste, depending on how spicy you like it)
4 (about 6 oz) chicken breast cutlets
1 c bulgur wheat
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 425F. Toss the carrot slices with 1/2 TB of olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper. Arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, stirring halfway through.
Turn the oven down to 375F. In a food processor, pulse the raisins about 10 times, or until roughly chopped. Add 3/4 c chopped fresh parsley, the fresh mint, and 1 clove minced garlic, and pulse another 10 times, or until the entire mixture is finely chopped. Transfer this mixture to a bowl and add the chopped onion, lemon zest, 2 TB lemon juice, 2 TB olive oil, paprika, cumin, cayenne pepper, and 1/8 each salt and pepper; stir to combine the chermoula.
Reserve 1/4 c of the chermoula for the bulgur pilaf and divide the remaining chermoula into 4 equal portions; evenly spread each portion onto each chicken cutlet, then start at one end and roll up each cutlet, securing the seam with toothpicks. Heat 1/2 TB olive oil in an oven-safe medium-sized pan over medium heat; add the rolled up chicken cutlets and cook for 3 minutes on each side or until they’re golden brown. Transfer the pan of chicken to the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Allow the chicken to rest for 5 minutes after it’s done cooking before removing the tooth picks and slicing it.
In a medium saucepan with a lid, combine 1 c bulgur wheat with 2 c cold water, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper. With the pot uncovered, bring the bulgur up to a boil and boil for 2 minutes, then cover the pot, turn off the heat, and let the bulgur stand for 10 minutes. Transfer the reserved 1/4 c chermoula back to the food processor and add 1 TB olive oil, 1 TB lemon juice, and 2 TB water; pulse until everything is combined well and has a consistency similar to salad dressing. Fluff the bulgur with a fork, then stir in the roasted carrots, 1/2 c fresh minced parsley, and the chermoula dressing. Taste and season with salt and pepper as necessary.
*Information in part from Wikipedia.