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Moroccan Chicken Rfissa - Trid with Chicken and Lentils

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Moroccan Chicken Rfisa (Rfissa, Rafisa)

Photo © Christine Benlafquih

Chicken Rfissa Medhoussa (sometimes called trid) is a Moroccan chicken and lentil dish that's served on a bed of shredded trid pastry, msemen, meloui or day old bread. The blend of Ras El Hanout, fenugreek seeds (helba in Arabic), saffron and other spices makes a truly unique and delicious dish, and as such, it's traditionally served on the third day following the birth of a child or for special occasions. Of course, it can be offered at other times as well.

Organic, free range chicken works best due to the long cooking time. If serving four people, make one batch of the Msemen Recipe. If serving six, make 1 1/2 batches.

Using leftover bread instead of msemen will reduce the prep time. If using msemen or trid pastry which is dry or not fresh, steam it in a couscoussier prior to serving.

Serves 4 to 6.

Prep Time: 1 minute

Cook Time: 2 minutes

Total Time: 3 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 chicken, quartered or left whole
  • 2 or 3 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ginger
  • 2 teaspoons Ras El Hanout
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/8 teaspoon Moroccan yellow colorant (optional)
  • --------------- For the Lentils ---------------
  • 1/2 cup uncooked lentils
  • 2 tablespoons fenugreek seeds, soaked overnight and drained
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads, heated gently and then crumbled
  • 1 small handful fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 small handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon smen (Moroccan preserved butter)
  • --------------- Msemen or Trid ---------------
  • 1 to 1 1/2 batches of cooked msemen or trid

Preparation:

Ahead of Time

Soak the fenugreek seeds in water for at least several hours, but overnight if possible. I also recommend soaking the lentils in water for several hours.

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, mix the chicken with the onions, olive oil, salt, pepper, ginger, turmeric and Ras El Hanout spices. Stir to coat the chicken well, cover, and set aside to marinate for a few hours, or overnight in the refrigerator.

Make and shred the msemen into bite-size pieces ahead of time (up to a day in advance), following the Msemen Recipe; at serving time, reheat the shredded msemen by steaming it in couscoussier.

OR the msemen can be made concurrent with the cooking of the chicken, in which case it's not necessary to steam the freshly shredded msemen. If choosing this method, plan to fold, cook, and tear the msemen into bite-sized pieces while the chicken and lentils are simmering on the stove.

Cook the Chicken and Lentils

Place the chicken on the stove over medium heat, and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, for about 15 to 20 minutes, until a rich sauce has formed.

If using a free range chicken: Add the drained fenugreek seeds, saffron, parsley, cilantro and 4 cups of water. Cover, and simmer over medium-low to medium heat for about one hour. Add the lentils and continue cooking, covered, for another hour or longer, until the chicken and lentils are quite tender. Add water during the cooking if necessary to ensure that ample broth is left in the pot.

If using a regular, factory-raised chicken: Add the drained lentils, drained fenugreek seeds, saffron, parsley, cilantro and 3 cups of water. Cover, and simmer over medium-low to medium heat for about one hour, or until the lentils are tender and the chicken is well-cooked. There should be ample broth in the pot. (If there's not, add a little water, tasting to be sure that the seasoning is not diluted.)

Taste the broth for salt, and add the teaspoon of smen, swirling the pot to mix it into the broth. If desired, remove the chicken from the pot and place it under a broiler for a few minutes to brown and crisp the skin.

Serve the Chicken Rfisa

Shred freshly made msemen while they are still hot (or steam previously shredded msemen for ten minutes). Mound the msemen on a large serving dish. Add the chicken to the bed of msemen, and distribute most of the broth and lentils over both the chicken and the shredded msemen. Reserve a bowlful or two of broth to offer on the side.

Moroccan tradition is to gather around this single large dish, with each person eating from his own side of the plate either by hand or with a spoon.

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