Showing posts with label Chicken. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chicken. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Sticky Pomegranate Drumsticks + Tahini-Lemon Brussels Sprouts

Yesterday's flavors, today's food.

That has been on my mind the last few months, as I've been pondering what to do next on this blog. Since I don't always have the time to cook traditional recipes, but my kitchen is always stocked with the basics of a Middle Eastern pantry, when it's time to cook dinner, I often find myself staring at cuts of meat, and a whole lot of blank slate.

That's when I throw open my pantry and reach for The Secret Weapon of Arabic Meat Dishes:  pomegranate molasses. And when I need to add more flavor to a roasted vegetable, I reach for one of the basic Arabic sauces - tahini and lemon.

It's really funny, if you think about it, because Arabs are dead against mixing sweet and savory, and yet, they use pomegranate molasses, a syrup made of cooked down pomegranate juice (recipe here). My mother tells of her tongue's culture shock when she first came to American and was served chicken cooked with pineapple, pork cooked with apples, lamb served with mint jelly.  Sweet, fruity with meat?  It just didn't make sense to her palate.

And yet:  pomegranate molasses. This remarkable tart-sweet syrup is a miracle worker in the meat department. Arabic cooks drizzle in a little into their meat stuffing, or over roasts or chickens.   Pomegranate has that tart acidity that the Arabic palate enjoys, and only a very slight sweetness, so I imagine that is what they enjoy.  In this recipe, though, I play up the pomegranate's slight sweetness, and bath the chicken in pomegranate molasses, to create a barbecue-like flavor that my more Western tongue enjoys.

(This marinade also makes a divine glaze for a pork roast.)

I paired this dish with a side of roast Brussels sprouts, a vegetable that my children enjoy immensely, and that I love, even though I never had it when I was growing up in the Middle East.  To make it feel a little more at home next to the tray of chicken, I added the tahini-lemon sauce, and a sprinkle of pine nuts on the sprouts.  And just like that, I think we have a new family favorite way to eat our Brussels sprouts.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Bone Broth: My Two Secrets for Making Beautiful, Abundant and Affordable Bone Broth

So, in my last post, I confessed my bone broth craze.

I've put into baby's cups.  I make soups and stews with my homemade broths all winter long.  I cook it into my rices and my noodles, I cook it into rice porridge.  Bone broth is a staple in my kitchen.

Here in the United States, Thanksgiving is around the corner and everyone is  comparing notes on their turkeys, whether they are going to deep fry or roast them, and whether they are buying frozen or fresh, local or organic.  Whatever you choose to buy, I'm begging you:


Don't throw away those bones.

Nothing breaks my heart like the sight of bones in the trash.  It makes me cringe to think of all of the beautiful soups and broths that could. have. been. 

So, today, I'm going to give you a step-by-step plan so simple that it will take just a few minutes, and you will be rewarded with days of delicious brothy soups in December.  So do yourself a favor and put aside that turkey frame, and after the festivities have died down, and everyone has recovered from their pie-and-turkey coma, come back here and follow my steps to making easy and delicious bone broth.

Over the years of making broth, I have been able to save time and money using two simple broth "secrets." I have shared these tips with many of my friends and even my mother! Here is how I streamline this practice in my kitchen so that I have a steady and simple way to keep an abundant supply of beautiful bone broth.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Bone Broth: Why I Turned My Kitchen into a Bone Broth Factory

I wanted to share with my readers something that I am passionate about.

It isn't beautiful.

It isn't a shows-stopper.

But it is a game-changer in the kitchen, and for your health.

I'm talking about broth.


Yes, broth.  Bone broth, that magical stuff, nourishment in a bowl, made from nothing but bones and water.  If you have never made your own broth, this kitchen routine might seem elementary, but really, it is the backbone of your kitchen.

See what I did there?

I promise to stop.  Maybe.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Chicken, Sumac and Onion Flatbread, or Musakhan

I have been sitting on this recipe for a little while.  I wanted to get it just right.

After all, musakhan is as important to Palestinians as deep-dish pizza is to Chicagoans.  A girl has to tread lightly here.  I have to hit all the right notes:  the soft, pillowy bread doused in broth, and then broiled crisp, the tangy sumac-spiced sauteed onions, toasted pine nuts and roast chicken, with just a drizzle of peppery olive oil to finish.

Musakhan is one of those traditional recipes that has breathed with the generations of Arabs who have birthed, lived and died in Palestine. It is one of our signature dish - the wild sumac, the pine nuts, the olives from our groves - and born from our ancient clay taboon ovens. These communal ovens served as a gathering spot for villagers, where families brought their trays of rolled out loaves of bread, proofed and puffy and ready for the oven. Taboon ovens are made of clay, and filled with hot stones, and then placed over a fire. Taboon bread, unlike regular pocket Arabic bread, is baked directly on the hot, smooth, rounded rocks, giving the bread its characteristic puff and char.

Palestinian village taboon oven.  Photo taken 1898-1914, by the American Colony, Jerusalem.

The word musakhan (or msakhan)  means heated up. All of the ingredients are precooked, assembled on taboon bread, and then reheated. Similar to other flatbreads, such as our za'atar breads (mana'eesh) or spiced meat pies (sfiha), these dishes were economical and practical since they used the dough from the villager's daily baked bread and turned the dough into a  meal.  In this case, the bread was soaked in broth, topped with sauteed onion, chicken and nuts, and then returned to the oven to finish.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Leftover Saver: Curried Lemon Chicken Pieces

There are two kinds of people: those who love and those who hate leftovers.

My mother insisted on cooking huge batches of food, so we ate leftovers regularly.  But we didn't have a microwave.  Everything had to be reheated on the stove-top.  Ever tried to reheat roasted chicken pieces on a stove top?  It can be a bit challenging.  The chicken can come out very dry and tasteless. And since we did not grow up in the land of boneless skinless chicken breasts, all of our chicken was cooked on the bone, usually roasted.  Then the next day, my mother would pick the bones clean, save the bones for stock, and fry up the meat a second time, seasoning it generously with her stash of Middle Eastern curry powder and finish it with a splash of lemon juice.

So I grew up to love leftover chicken.  I think I may even love this more than the original meal of roast chicken.  I just can't stop picking at the bowl of juicy, caramelized chicken pieces, flavored with the sweet and mildly spicy curry powder.  The final squeeze of lemon juice brightens up the whole dish, balancing out the flavors of the curry.

If you have leftover chicken, this whole dish will take you five minutes, start to finish.  If you don't have any leftover chicken, I do like to use boneless chicken thighs here for a very quick dish.  For a fabulous sandwich, serve this tucked into a loaf of pita bread.  Otherwise, serve it next to rice, a plate of green beans - really, whatever you have in your kitchen.  It is as forgiving as it is delicious.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Lamb in Yogurt Sauce, or Mansaf for Beginners

Palestinian mansaf is not humble food, served just to your family, like mujjadara and fasoulia and shorabat addas.  This is celebratory food, kill-the-fatted-lamb food, the centerpiece of a feast, and often served at weddings, graduations, or prepared for an honored guest.

And this meal is as ancient as the land.  It tells a story of the land and how people used to eat long ago, how they preserved and cared for their foods.

Mansaf is boiled lamb, served in a rich sauce made of yogurt.  Today, it is served over a bed of rice, but since rice is a relative newcomer to the Middle East, it was probably originally served with bread.  It is often eaten by hand, served from a communal dish.  What makes this dish distinctive is the sauce in which the lamb is simmered, a sauce made from a traditionally prepared hardened yogurt. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Musakhan: Roasted Chicken with Carmelized Onions and Olive-Oil Drenched Bread

Put away your forks and knives, friends.  This is finger food. 

Now, this is a favorite Palestinian feast.  Tender chicken pieces, seasoned with lemony sumac, roasted with loads of sweet caramelized onions and olive oil, baked onto soft bread that absorbs the juices of the chicken, and topped with buttery pine nuts . . . I think of it as the Palestinian version of fried chicken, because of the generous amounts of olive oil used here, which soak into everything and transform a simple chicken and onion dish into a rich, melt-in-your-mouth experience.  Plus, this meal is traditionally eaten with your hands. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Stuffed Chicken, or Djaj Mahshi

Do you have something to celebrate? A new bride in the family? A new mother? The fact that it is Saturday? 

Stuffed chicken is a Palestinian celebratory meal, served particularly to new mothers. Traditionally, a new mother would spend a month at home and in bed, caring for her newborn, while her mother-in-law would take over all household chores, including cooking and preparing delicacies for the new mother. Pregnancy, labor, delivery, the early days of breastfeeding - new mothers' bodies have given so much that they should in turn be given the most nourishing foods possible. This tender roasted chicken is stuffed with buttery pine nuts, spiced rice and ground meat. Served with a bowl of tart plain yogurt, a chopped salad and some Arabic bread, this makes for a meal designed to heal and build up a mother's body.

The quality of the chicken matters. When my mother comes to America, she laughs at the plump chickens in the grocery store. Is this a chicken or a turkey? What did they do to these breasts? I have never seen a chicken like this. She mockingly staggers as she picks one up.

I have come to see her point. The chickens I grew up eating were smaller, and also tasted well, more like chicken. More flavorful than the chicken-flavored-cardboard that I had been cooking since I had moved to the States.

I back away from the boob-job chickens.

I pick up an organic, free-range chicken. When on sale, I really enjoy kosher organic chickens. They are so tender that they melt in your mouth and my children adore them. The higher price tag gives me pause until I realize that if I make enough bone broth from the chicken bones, I will actually recoup the cost of the chicken entirely. And because they are pastured birds, they absorb the macro nutrients of the foods they eat, and pass those on to me. These birds fit into our moral framework, too, which I was grateful for tonight when my daughter asked me what the difference was between the chicken that we eat and the chickens that she has seen at farms. When I gently explained that they are one and the same, I was glad to be able to explain that this bird had had a long happy life and just one bad day.


Djaj Mahshi

1 whole chicken, pastured preferred

Rice and Meat Stuffing:
(Enough for extra to cook on the stove top or to stuff two chickens)

1 onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup rice, soaked overnight, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon butter
1 3/4 cups chicken stock or water
1/2 lb ground lamb or beef
Salt and pepper
All spice
1/2 cup pine nuts

Chicken Rub:
1 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons yogurt
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses*
1 tsp Middle Eastern chicken seasoning, or all spice
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper

1. Saute the diced onion in olive oil until translucent. Add rice and saute for a couple of minutes. Then add chicken broth or water, 1 1/2 tsp salt and pepper, 1 tsp all spice, and a little freshly grated nutmeg. Bring to a boil and then simmer until becoming tender, but not mushy, about 15 minutes.

2. Brown the meat, breaking up into small pieces with your spatula. Season with salt, pepper, 1/2 tsp all spice, and little cinnamon.

3. Saute the pine nuts in a tablespoon of butter, over low heat, stirring carefully and watching. They burn very easily.

4. In a bowl, combine the rice, meat, pine nuts and onions. Check seasonings.

5. Wash the chicken and pat dry inside and out and set it into a shallow roasting pan.

6. Divide the rice into two separate bowls, to prevent contamination. Reserve one bowl to serve with the chicken. Spoon stuffing from the other bowl into the cavity of the chicken, fitting as much as you can. Using toothpicks, secure the opening to the cavity as best as you can. If you prefer, you can sew the cavity closed.

7. In a small bowl, combine lemon juice, yogurt and pomegranate molasses. Rub into the chicken breast. Salt and pepper the chicken liberally. Place some pats of butter under the breast skin, and rub a little more onto the chicken skin.

8. For a tender bird, slow roast the chicken using this method. Preheat oven to 300 F and roast the chicken. Roast until the chicken reaches 160 F, then turn the oven up to 375 F, baste the chicken with its juices and roast until the chicken's internal temperature reaches 180 F. This should take a total of two and a half to three hours, depending on the size of the chicken.

9. Cover with foil and let the chicken rest for five to ten minutes, for its juices to redistribute.

10. To make the most flavorful rice, pour some of the chicken drippings from the roast pan into the reserved rice stuffing and stir it in. Then try not to eat it all on the spot.

*You can purchase pomegranate molasses at Middle Eastern grocers, large grocery stores, or you can make it yourself.   See recipe.