Old School Middle Eastern Recipes with Some Modern Day Twists

Musakhan

Musakhan

Palestinian Sumac Chicken with Sautéed Onions and Bread

I had been searching for this recipe for a long time. I remember the first time I ate this it at my Tata’s (dad’s mother) house. She whipped it out of the oven, and with just the smell I was like “where has this dish been all my life?!” The juicy seasoned chicken, flavorful onions and notes of bright sumac laced throughout creates such a balanced and flavorful dish. But what really makes this dish a slam dunk is the bread that lines the bottom and soaks up all those great flavors, while acting as a vehicle to eat it all up in- need I say more?

Musakhan wrapped in bread. Tell me you don’t want some.

I unfortunately did not have the chance to jot down this recipe from my Tata. But, low and behold, the same event happened when I was at my mother-in- law’s (Majedah’s) house and she whipped out this dish from the oven, but this time I was like “Hallelujah!….PLEASE, give me this recipe!” A short time later, I was lucky enough to cook and learn from her. It was so fun! Once again, it is amazing how taste and flavors can transcend generations. Both Tata’s and Majedah’s dishes taste nearly identical. I can attest as I brought some home to my dad and he said while drooling, “This is one of the best things I have ever eaten, its has been forever since I have eaten it!” My grandpa sitting at the kitchen counter agreed with his mouth full. Plain and simple – this dish is good.

Majedah and me making Musakhan <3

Musakhan

Palestinian Sumac Chicken with Sautéed Onions and Bread
Course dinner, lunch, Main Course
Cuisine Middle Eastern

Ingredients
  

  • 2 whole chickens, cut into 8 parts each (2 breasts, 2 thighs, 2 legs, 2 wings)*
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 4 cups olive oil **
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • to taste, salt
  • pepper, to taste
  • paprika
  • 3 tbsp sumac
  • 4 large spanish onions
  • flatbread (naan or taboon bread)***
  • 1 cup pine nuts, slivered almond or mix of both

Instructions
 

  • Heat oven to 350°F
  • Squeeze juice of 1 lemon on chicken. Allow to sit for 10-15 minutes.
  • Rinse lemon soaked chicken with cold water.
  • Coat large pan with with ~ 1 TBS of olive oil.
  • Season each side of chicken with salt, pepper and paprika until fully covered. The amount of seasoning is to your liking.
  • Place chicken into pan, skin side up. Take reserved 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Brush tops of each piece of chicken with a thin layer of oil.
  • Cover pan with foil and in oven to slowly roast for 2 hours.
  • Meanwhile, while the chicken cooks, prepare the sumac onions. See below.
  • After 2 hours of roasting, increase oven temperature to 400°F. Uncover chicken and baste with juices in pan. Place in over for another 20 minutes.

Sumac Onions

  • Chop onions into 1" squares.
  • On medium heat, heat up 4 cups of olive oil in a pan over the stove. This should be enough oil to cover the onions. Heat oil for about 5 minutes.
  • Place chopped onions in oil.
  • Cook onions in oil on low heat until slightly softened. The onions should start to become translucent but still hold their shape. This will take about 20 minutes.
  • Turn heat off. Add 2 Tbsp sumac and salt (to taste) to pot, allow to sit in pot for 15-20 minutes to allow flavors to bloom.

Assembly

  • Roast 1 cup of pine nuts or slivered almonds (or a mix of both) in a pan with about 1 Tbsp of oil. Cook until they start to become golden brown, then remove from heat.
  • Arrange large pieces of flatbread on a plate. The size of each piece should be large enough to fold into a sandwich if you choose to.
  • Spoon on onion mixture onto slices of flatbread. Allow some of the oil to drain off, but keep a little to allow it to soak into the bread. Spread onion mixture evenly onto each piece of bread.
  • Place a piece of chicken on top of each pita. Drizzle a little of the chicken juices from the pan over the entire dish.
  • Garnish finished dish with roasted nuts and another Tbsp of sumac.
  • Enjoy as is, or debone chicken and roll up into a sandwich (my favorite way!)

Notes

* It is very easy to break down a whole chicken by yourself…you got this!  Martha to the rescue: https://www.marthastewart.com/904255/how-cut-whole-chicken.
Or, you can buy a whole chicken from your butcher and ask them to break it down for you. Some supermarkets also sell whole chickens already broken down.
Cooking the chicken in this dish with the bone in and skin on really takes the flavor level up a few notches, I highly recommend keeping those on.  If you plan to eat the pita and chicken as a sandwich, be sure to debone. You can also remove the skin if you prefer then too. 
** You will not use all the olive oil in this dish calls for. After assembling the dish,  reserve the residual olive oil from the onions. The reserved olive oil has a sweet onion and lemony taste from the sumac, and it can be used as a base for salad dressings over the next few days. 
*** Depending on what is available to you, you can use any flatbread of your choice. In commercial US supermarkets, the easiest to find is probably naan bread. If you are at a Middle Eastern grocery store I recommend using taboon or laffa bread – which is like pita, but pocketless, fluffier, and softer. 
Keyword bread, chicken, onions, sumac



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