Rfissa (Moroccan Chicken With Lentils)

Total Time
1hr 30mins
Prep 30 mins
Cook 1 hr

This dish is made on special occasions in Morocco. It is served in one communal dish & everyone eats out of it with their right hand (no utensils). It is time consuming to make but it is much easier if you have a second pair of hands to help. (Smen is a special kind of rancid butter mixed with spices that is used to flavor tagines & other dishes in Morocco. It can be purchased online.)

Ingredients Nutrition

Ras El Hanout - Moroccan Spice Mix)"> Ras El Hanout - Moroccan Spice Mix)">

Directions

  1. Wash the chicken & marinate it in a mixture of grated onion, olive oil, ginger, ras el hanout, salt, & pepper for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator.
  2. Note: The m'semmen takes the longest to make & it should be started before cooking the chicken. I find it helpful to make 2 smaller batches instead of 1 large one. One to make before cooking the chicken & the other to make while the chicken is cooking.
  3. M'semmen: In a large bowl mix 2 1/2 cups of flour with 1 tsp salt & 1 tsp sugar. Add enough lukewarm water to the mixture to form a stiff dough. (Flours differ in their ability to absorb moisture so no precise amount can be given. Add a small amount at a time. If you have added too much the mixture will be extra sticky and it will be hard to get off your hands, add a little more flour. The right consistency should allow the dough to pull easily off your fingers).
  4. Knead the mixture for 5 minutes until it forms a smooth dough. Pull the dough apart into golf ball size balls, around 12-15. Pour 1 tablespoon of oil onto a large pizza pan. Lightly roll each ball in the oil then place back into the bowl (this helps insure the balls do not dry out).
  5. Note: The next steps is where you really should have 2 people. One to form the m'semmen & one to cook it.
  6. Person 1: Make sure your hands & the pizza pan are well oiled (you will have to keep adding more oil for each ball). Take one ball & gently spread it out with your oiled fingertips stretching the dough in all directions until it is very thin. (It should be thin like paper but you don't want it to pull apart).
  7. Person 2: Drizzle a small amount of oil in a large frying pan with your finger tips. Heat the pan over medium heat until it gets hot. Lay one sheet of m'semmen in the pan & cook on each side until it has golden spots.
  8. Repeat the previous 2 steps until each ball has been cooked. Place the m'semmen on a plate to be used later.
  9. In a 8 or 10 quart pressure cooker place 4 cups of water, onion strips, parsley, spices (except the fenugreek), oil, & chicken. Simmer, uncovered, on medium heat for 10 minutes. After that time turn the chicken over & simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes more. (You may use a regular pot if you don't have a pressure cooker. The cook times here are the same).
  10. While the chicken is simmering start your second batch of m'semmen, repeating all the steps for it. You should end up with around 25 sheets of m'semmen in all.
  11. After the chicken is done simmering add the lentils, smen, fenugreek & another cup of water to the bottom of the pressure cooker. Make sure the chicken is breast side down. Seal with the lid & cook for 10-15 minutes more, after it begins to hiss. It is ready when the chicken & lentils are tender. (If using a regular pot the cook time is longer, around 30-40 minutes).
  12. Take all the m'semmen sheets & shred them into 1 inch pieces. Place them in the top of a couscoussier or steamer. Steam them until they are limp & warm.
  13. Scatter a thin layer of shredded m'semmen in the bottom of a large deep platter. Place the chicken in the middle of the platter. Litter the rest of the m'semmen around the chicken. Pour a generous amount of lentils & sauce over the chicken & m'semmen. Put any extra sauce into a bowl with a ladle to be used to dish up additional sauce while eating.