A Lesson in Moroccan Flavors

At San Francisco's Aziza, Mourad Lahlou brilliantly evokes Morocco. F&W simplifies his dishes.

Mourad Lahlou of San Francisco's Aziza is not afraid to voice his strong opinions: He hates fusion food, he hates the term ethnic restaurant and he hates chefs who yell in the kitchen (though he admits that he used to be a terrible screamer). But the self-taught chef loves recipes that evoke his native Marrakech. "It's not possible to cut and paste a recipe from Morocco, make it in San Francisco, and expect it to be exactly the same," he says. Instead, he creates splendid dishes using a combination of American and Moroccan ingredients, as well as molecular-gastronomy tools like xanthan gum. Lahlou will launch a cookbook and a TV show next fall; F&W gets a preview by simplifying his tastiest recipes here—leaving out the gum but keeping all the great flavors and smart ideas.

Chef Way: Sous-Vide Chicken

chef chicken

© Amy Snyder

At his restaurant, Lahlou uses sous-vide equipment to cook chicken breasts with buttermilk and herbs.

Easy Way: Sautéed Chicken

easy chicken

© James Baigrie

Home cooks can sauté the breasts in a skillet, set them on a smooth and creamy mound of pureed celery root, and garnish the dish with chopped herbs and chestnuts. "Chestnuts are a fairly common snack in Morocco," Lahlou says. "I like to serve them with chicken."

Chef Way: Composed Salad

Chef mizuna salad

© James Baigrie

At Aziza, Lahlou composes his beet salad with a few well-placed mizuna leaves.

Easy Way: Simpler Salad

easy salad

© James Baigrie

The home version of the salad is more rustic and hearty.

Chef Way: Hanger Steak with Homemade Stock

chef steak

© James Baigrie

Lahlou cooks beans and mushrooms in a house-made beef stock.

Easy Way: Hanger Steak with Simpler Broth

easy steak

© James Baigrie

The home-cook shortcut: briefly simmering in store-bought broth.

PUBLISHED November 2010