Adapted from *Parsley* (Food.com)
This week’s challenge started when Jan and I were watching “Diners, Drive Ins and Dives.” One of the featured dishes was Lebanese Za’atar Pizza. I made this for dinner the next night and it was such a hit that Jan wanted a Lebanese meal built around it for Sunday.
I have been making Tabbouleh for years, so that would be a natural go together. Jan also wanted chicken skewers, but San Jose’s Winter Spare the Air season meant no BBQ until March. Skewers-in-the-broiler just doesn’t make it for me, so I decided to find something else.
Looking on the Internet I found many recipes for Lebanese Chicken and Potatoes, but none of them really took me hold of me. The various recipes did, however. give me several ideas of what to add to make a dish “Lebanese.” Lebanese 7 Spice seemed like a must, but I did not want to buy packaged spice blend. (See Karl’s Lebanese 7 Spice to see where this led.) Garlic for this dish was all over the place, from 2 to 20 cloves. My family loves garlic, but too much would drown out the 7 spices. Onions seemed like a good idea, but instead of sliced onions, how about a mix of pearl onions? A final addition would be the sour spice sumac. Many Lebanese restaurants I have been to use this sour spice as a last minute addition, like Americans would use pepper.
Many of the recipes I found called for marinating the chicken overnight, but they also include lemon juice. If you add the lemon juice to the chicken marinade, do not let it sit for more than 4 hours. While the acids in the lemon juice will tenderize the meat, if you marinate it too long it will eventually make the chicken mushy. It is better to marinate overnight in spice, herbs, garlic, and oil. If lemon juice is called for add it just before cooking.
I prefer to cut up my own large whole chicken (around 5 pounds), I could never understand why anyone would pay a dollar a pound extra for a task that only takes a few minutes. When I cut up a whole chicken for a dish like this I start by removing the backbone with kitchen shears. Starting at the tail I snip along both sides of the backbone until it is free of the bird. I reserve this and any other bits for chicken stock.
Opening up the bird, skin side down, I then snip off the legs by cutting along the edge of the breast meat and then across the belly skin. Starting in the middle of one side of the breast, I then slide the knife just under the ribs until the tip hits the keel bone (breast bone). I slide the knife along the breast towards the tail to separate the breast meat from the bones. Moving the knife back to the center I cut in the opposite direction along the ribs forward until the rib cage is free. When you have cut both sides free, cut the cartilage joints at the top of the breast bone. It is easy to slide two fingers under the top of the ribcage to tear the breast bone free. Using a large kitchen knife slice the chicken in half where the breast bone used to be. If you are going to barbecue the bird you may stop here with four pieces, two breasts and two legs.
For a baked dish I will usually remove most of the skin at this point and any large clumps of fat (no one in my house really needs the extra calories these would add to the dish). I separate the leg from the thigh by slicing through the joint. I cut the breasts meat into four pieces (Jan’s cries of “Portion control!” ringing in my ears). I first cut off the wing and a small bit of the breast meat and then the “V” shaped piece at the other end. I then evenly divide the remaining piece. This cutting pattern leaves you with 12 fairly even portions of chicken, which leaves plenty for seconds or leftovers.
Karl’s Lebanese Chicken and Potatoes
1 chicken, cut into 12 pieces
7 tsp. Karl’s Lebanese 7 Spice (2 Tbs. plus 1 tsp.)
½ tsp. salt
10 garlic cloves, crushed
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup fresh lemon juice
12 small red potatoes cut in half
20-25 mixed pearl onions (red, yellow and white)
½ cup chopped fresh flat leafed parsley
Powered sumac, in a bowl or spice jar with a holed top
1. Several hours before dinner, or the night before, cut up and marinate the chicken in a mixture of the 7 spice mix, salt, garlic and olive oil. Note: If you are going to bake the chicken in less than four hours, add the lemon juice at this time. Put the chicken and marinate in a gallon plastic bag and refrigerate.
2. Remove the bag from the refrigerator two hours before dinner. Note: If you are marinating the chicken overnight, add the lemon juice, seal the bag well and toss the chicken in the bag to distribute and combine the lemon juice. Leave the bag on the counter to come to room temperature.
2. Ninety minutes before dinner preheat the oven to 425°.
3. Arrange the chicken pieces in a large greased (Pam-ed) baking pan.
4. Toss the potatoes and onions in the marinade remaining in the bag (add another tablespoon of olive oil if necessary) and scatter them and any remaining marinade over the chicken. The pan should be large enough that the chicken, potatoes and onions are not in two layers, but some overlapping is fine.
5. Cover pan with foil and bake for 40 minutes.
6. Remove foil and continue cooking until chicken and potatoes are golden, about another 40 minutes.
7. Transfer chicken and vegetables to a serving bowl and cover with foil. Put the pan drippings in a small pot and reduce the volume by half. Pour the sauce over the chicken and garnish the dish with the parsley.
8. Provide the sumac to sprinkle over the dish as diners prefer.