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Roast Chicken with Sumac and Red Onions + Giveaway!

by Kristina Gill

One of the fantastic things about editing this column over the years has been seeing the different ways people prepare the same ingredient. We have featured chicken dishes quite a few times because no matter how the spices, herbs, and form may change, it has always proven to be a simple dish to prepare — and when done well, also memorable. Curious about Palestinian food, when I learned about Zaitoun: Recipes from the Palestinian Kitchen by author, broadcaster, and cook, Yasmin Khan, I ran out instantly and purchased a copy. This photo accompanying her recipe for Mussakhan (roast chicken with sumac and red onions) jumped out at me (unfortunately not literally!), and I knew it was the recipe we would publish this week. I love that it is served on a platter, on top of Arabic taboon bread for all to share, rather than portioned for each individual. —Kristina

Yasmin Khan is a best-selling author, broadcaster and cook who is passionate about sharing people’s stories through food. Yasmin is a regular media commentator having appeared on many flagship news programs such as Channel 4 News, Newsnight, BBC R4’s Today program and Women’s Hour and NPR’s Morning Edition. She has worked as a radio presenter for BBC R4’s Food Programme and as a host on the CNN/Roads and Kingdoms travel series “The Perfect Dish” with Anthony Bourdain. Her writing has been published in the Guardian, the Observer, the Independent, the Telegraph, Saveur, Roads and Kingdoms, AFAR and Food52, amongst others. Her debut cookbook was The Saffron Tales: Recipes From the Persian Kitchen. Find Yasmin on Instagram @yasminkhanstories, Twitter @yasmin_khan and Facebook @YasminKhanStories.

For a chance to win a copy of Zaitoun, respond in the comments section below by August 8, 5PM EST to either of the following questions: What has been your most memorable shared meal? or What is your favorite way to prepare chicken?  As always, we need details because we love imagining we were there with you, or are tasting the good food you describe. We will announce the winner in the comments section, so be sure to check back!

Image above: Zaitoun; Photography by Matt Russell

Image above: Yasmin Khan

Image above: Palestinian feast

Image above: Mussakhan (Roast chicken with sumac and red onions)

Mussakhan / Roast Chicken with Sumac and Red Onions

Mussakhan (Roast chicken with sumac and red onions) is a classic Palestinian dish eaten in villages throughout the region. Traditionally the meat is laid out on a giant piece of bread with the flavorsome roasting juices poured over it, so that they seep into the dough. This platter is then placed on the table for everyone to pull off sections of bread and chicken: a wonderful sharing meal. As it can be challenging to find such large pieces of flatbread in most shops, I’ve suggested using individual naan breads instead… but, of course, if you can, seek out traditional sheets of Arabic taboon bread from Middle Eastern stores. If you are avoiding gluten, the chicken is just as delicious on its own, or served with rice or a salad.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 lb./1kg chicken thighs and drumsticks, skin on
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, more to serve
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sumac, more to dust
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large red onions (about 1 lb./500g), finely sliced into half-moons
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or any neutral oil
  • naan or Arabic taboon bread, to serve
  • chopped parsley leaves

Preparation

1

Slash the flesh of each piece of chicken diagonally a few times, around 3/4 inch/2cm apart, and then place the meat in a large bowl or plastic container.

Pour over the extra virgin olive oil, spices, lemon juice, garlic, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and rub this into the meat. Add the red onions and toss everything together well. Cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for 1–3 hours.

When you are ready to cook the chicken, preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C.

Transfer the meat to a baking pan and roast for about 35 minutes, or until the chicken juices run clear when pierced at their thickest part. Once the chicken is cooked, cover in foil and leave to rest while you prepare the toppings.

Fry the pine nuts in the cooking oil for a minute or so until they turn golden brown, then tip onto a paper towel to drain.

To serve, toast the naan or taboon bread and then place the chicken and red onion on top. Finish with a smattering of pine nuts, sumac and chopped parsley. Drizzle over any remaining roasting juices so they soak into the bread, then sprinkle over a little more extra virgin olive oil.

Recipes and photographs from Zaitoun: Recipes from the Palestinian Kitchen by Yasmin Khan. Copyright © 2018 by Yasmin Khan. Photographs copyright © 2018 by Matt Russell. Reprinted with permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

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Comments

  • This looks amazing! My fallback is always a classic roast chicken with plenty of garlic, rosemary, and lemon (Stuff it all inside! Literally do nothing!). Surround it with carrots and fingerling potatoes and roast it all together. It makes the house smell amazing and checks all the boxes for an amazing “one-cast-iron-skillet” meal.

  • headed home to see family, and i’m packing sumac in my backpack so i can cook this to share. favorite meal? last-minute impromptu gathering where everyone brought their leftovers–we warmed them up in the oven, mixed up a bunch of cocktails, started a fire, and enjoyed the bounty and conversation.

  • This looks amazing! The first time we decided to do fondue for a dinner party is, by far, my most memorable shared meal. Twelve people, four pots of assorted liquids, and every fondue fork we could get our hands on. You can’t have a quiet dinner when you’re dipping into fondue! I was worried that the group would feel awkward, but by the end of the night everyone declared it a success.

  • Jaime Oliver’s Chicken in Milk recipe inspired me to improvise. I customized his recipe to be dairy free by using coconut milk. A little lemongrass and turmeric gives it a hint of Thai. Now a family favorite!

  • We like to marinate chicken in yogurt with curry spices and then cutting into pieces and barbecue on skewers along with lemon potatoes and roast veggies….yummy!

  • I remember sharing a meal in Peru while visiting my husband’s family – we had only just arrived and were swept to a restaurant on the coast – lovely weather, beach right outside (I had come from winter in Cleveland). I was exhausted, but exhilarated at the same time – vacation, beach, relatives, amazing food and drinks! We shared pitchers of pisco sour, passed around the freshest ceviche, chowed down on kancha and conchas ala parmesana – the food just kept coming. There were grandmas and youngsters and everyone was laughing and talking – beautiful.

  • It’s rather appropriate that my most memorable shared meal was with my Palestinian father-in-law. I made spiced meatballs with sumac and bought zataar the pita bread. We had quite the conversation on how the spice blend is correctly pronounced. It would be my last conversation with him as he began showing signs of Alzheimer’s shortly thereafter.

  • This looks amazing!

    My most memorable shared meal was the first roast chicken I ever made, in my first apt, for friends. I didn’t have a dining set so threw a blanket on the floor and we ate picnic style. It was so fun and relaxed!

  • I have a recipe for roasted cinnamon chicken that I’ve only made a handful of times on special occasions. The chicken is coated in cinnamon and other spices, then roasted on a bed of onions, peppers, celery, carrots, torn up corn tortillas and pepitas, which then get blended (in batches) and strained into a sauce with the addition of some chicken stock. It’s delicious, but the blending and straining are always much more time consuming and messy than I anticipate, especially when working in a tiny kitchen! I’m pretty sure I wrote down the recipe while watching one of the old-school cooking shows on PBS eons ago..maybe one of the Great Chefs series? In any event, it’s delicious.

  • Favorite way to make chicken: Anthony Bourdain’s roast chicken. It’s one of the “adult” meals I make in my grad school apartment and can easily make food for the whole week, bones for broth. It’s amazing. The chicken is nice and juicy, with a perfect crispy skin and a lemony, buttery taste and an herby complement that is perfect for bringing out the savory taste of the chicken.

  • The food looks amazing. I’m not sure if I ever had a shared meal but I’m Ukrainian so we always have big holiday dinners and get-togethers. Thanks!

  • Beautiful photography and interesting recipe. My favorite chicken right now is lazy summertime chicken :-) I put a couple of chicken cutlets in the instant pot with about a cup of salsa verde. If I’m being fancy, I stir in a little taco seasoning. Cook on high pressure for around 15 minutes. I shred it and put on a bun, in a taco, etc.

  • Chicken was served every Friday night. It was always a whole chicken, baked for hours, and seasoned with granulated garlic, onion salt, and paprika. My mother used paprika on alleat dishes. She associated it with ” The chicken should have a blush”. I associated it with rouge for one’s cheeks! It was cooked for hours. If you were served a drumstick, you’d lift it to your lips, try to take a bite, and all the meat would fall into your plate because it was cooked to death!
    I approach chicken with lots of layers of flavors, frequently using a thick.layer of sliced onions, garlic, cumin, and sauerkraut underneath. And I generally cut tje chicken up before hand, in order to quickly serve to friends and avoid carving. I think of chicken as a delicious blank slate since every ethnic cuisine cooks it. And I don’t cook it for hours.
    I adore.Middle Eastern cuisine even though I have never been.

  • Not having been much of a cook, I decided a few years ago to invite three friends over for my first ever roast chicken. I’d found a simple recipe online that called for stuffing the interior with lemon halves, rosemary and a bulb of garlic, among other things. Well into our second bottle of wine and having followed the recipe precisely, I pulled from the oven a tender, golden, crispy-skinned chicken brimming with juices. I had no idea chicken could taste so incredible! I went into it the process with such fear and trepidation, but also the strong desire to leave my comfort zone, and nurture and nourish my friends. The moans of delight from all four of us were enough to dispel my lifelong fear of cooking for others. I’m looking forward to trying out this recipe.

  • Most memorable shared meal: At a Buddhist restaurant in Seoul, Korea, they laid out about 40 tiny plates, each with just a few bites of food on them. There were about 10 of us, and each dish was different, with beautiful vegetables, perfectly prepared, in the most amazing setting with carved wood everywhere and giant plants.

  • Too many years ago, in college, an acquaintance took a semester off to work at the Guggenheim museum in Venice. Over winter break, I met up with friends who had been studying abroad in Europe to travel, and we wound up in Venice over Christmastime. The docent program at the museum does a fantastic job of hiring fascinating people from all over the world, and they were having a potluck on Christmas day. My friend, who is Swiss, had her grandmother send her chocolate so we could make a cake, because everyone brought something that reminded them of home, and because home covered so many places for the docents – from Japan to Zimbabwe – we had an amazing variety of dishes that everyone had lovingly prepared (to the best they were able to get ingredients in Venice!) I was traveling with my friends who were respectively from Colombia and Ghana (I’m American) and it was just the most wonderful gathering, that lasted from 2pm to 2am, with fascinating conversations about art and cooking, mostly, and enough food to feed us for 12 hours. The cake was a hit, and I had some of the best dumplings I can ever recall. Such a diverse group was completely united by common interests. The next day we got a special tour led by a whole bunch of our docent friends and we felt so connected to the beauty of Venice that created that amazing moment in time. I’ll never forget that meal for as long as I live.

  • This is my favorite dish from my visit to Jordan. I make it all the time. My other favorite thing to do with chicken is to toss seasonal veggies and potatoes with good olive oil and salt and pepper and whatever seasonings you like (zataar is fantastic) then spread onto a sheet pan evenly. Spatchkock a chicken, rub with olive oil and salt and pepper and whatever seasonings you put on the veggies and place on top of the sheet pan of veggies and potatoes. Bake at 400 degrees for an hour or until chicken is done. Remove chicken to rest and toss veggies and potatoes around on sheet pan and put back in oven to finish browning while chicken rests. So easy and delicious!

  • My most memorable shared meal was a potluck at my local interfaith women’s group. I live in middle Georgia, but this group of women spans dozens of faiths and members that started out their lives all over the world. The particular dish that stood out was a smoked chickpea dish that the maker had improvised by heating a charcoal briquette and putting it in a foil pouch in her kitchen because she does not have the type of stove it would have been made on when she learned to cook. This group always leaves me with appreciation of how many ways there can be of approaching the world.

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