I decided to do a Middle Eastern chicken to go with my tabbouleh. Bahārāt (which is Arabic for spices) is a common spice blend in many Middle Eastern countries, but every country makes it a different way. The recipe I decided to use made way too much for four little chicken thighs, so I reduced the amounts to my needs.
I have run into a problem in frying chicken. The meat seizes onto the pan and shreds when I try to turn it over. I have been reading about Japanese bar food—more on that soon—and their solution is to dredge the meat in potato starch. Potato starch has much less flavor than wheat starch. The thinnest layer of starch prevents the proteins in the meat from sticking to the pan.
While this solves my sticky problem, it would leave the pieces of chicken looking dry and not particularly appealing to the eye. A glaze would remedy this. I particularly like honey lemon and it would pair nicely with the flavors of the baharat spices.
Karl’s Baharat Chicken with Honey Lemon Glaze
Baharat Spice Blend
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. coriander
5 whole cloves
⅛ tsp. + a pinch nutmeg (1/6 tsp.)
⅛ tsp. + a pinch cinnamon
1 pod cardamom, seeds only
1-2 Tbs. olive oil, separate uses
4 chicken thighs
½ tsp. Kosher salt
½ cup potato starch
2 Tbs. lemon juice
1 ½ Tbs. honey
½ tsp. cornstarch dissolved in 1 tsp. water
½ tsp. toasted white sesame seeds
1. Put all of the baharat ingredients into a spice grinder and process them to a fine powder.
Tip: Transfer the spices to a shaker spice jar.
Note: I keep a selection of cleaned commercial spice jars with shaker lids just for this purpose.
2. Cut the chicken thighs into large pieces.
Tip: Each thigh should produce 5-7 hearty bites.
3. Sprinkle the salt all over the chicken and toss to distribute.
4. Sprinkle the baharat on all sides of the chicken pieces and rub in the spices.
Note: I did this on a tray and then transfer them to a bowl, but you could just do everything in the bowl.
5. Drizzle about a tablespoon of olive oil over the chicken and toss to coat each piece.
6. Cover the chicken with plastic wrap and refrigerate, to marinate, for at least 30 minutes.
7. Measure the lemon juice, honey, and corn starch into a small bowl and mix them thoroughly.
Tip: I use a metal cup that I can set on a burner. Just warming the mixture a little makes it much easier to dissolve the honey into the lemon.
Warning: However, if you do this do not add the cornstarch until the mixture has cooled down again.
8. Put the potato starch on a plate and dredge each piece in the flour.
Tip: Shake off the excess flour.
Note: You are not trying to make a thick breaded crust. You are just trying to lightly coat each piece.
9. Put the remaining oil in a large skillet and heat it over a medium high heat.
10. Fry the chicken for 4-5 minutes per side, until just cooked through.
Note: I cook with as little oil as possible, because of Jan’s dietary restrictions. If you wish you could add a cup of oil to the pan and deep fry the chicken.
11. Remove the chicken to a plate and drain off any excess oil remaining.
12. Reduce the heat and add 1-2 tablespoons of water to deglaze the pan.
13. When almost all of the water has evaporated, add the lemon, honey, cornstarch mixture.
14. Cook until the glaze has started to thicken, about 1-2 minutes.
15. Return the chicken to the pan and toss to coat and to warm the chicken again.
16. Transfer the chicken to a serving bowl and garnish with the sesame seeds.
Tip: Scrape any of the glaze remaining in the pan over the chicken.