Za'atar Roasted Chicken

This recipe is based on Za’atar Roasted Chicken Sofrido, which is a very common dish in the Mediterranean kitchen. Sofrido simply means fried in Spanish. I remember as a kid, as soon as winter hit, first rain arrived and we changed our clocks to winter time (always a sad event with me as I LOVEEEEE summer), you would smell the intoxicating cooking aromas of chicken slowly roasting for hours, usually with potatoes and onions and other vegetables, rising from every kitchen in the neighborhood. Then it would be set at the table center, for the entire family to enjoy together.

 
 

Za’atar roasted chicken sofrido, for me, translates to comfort, family and warmth, which I always seek when it turns grey, cold and rainy. And could we stop changing the clock please… these short days are not a lot of fun.

This is my take on this iconic Mediterranean dish, Za’atar Roasted chicken sofrido.


So let’s do this!…

 

Ingredients:

  • Roughly 2.5lb (1.2kg) chicken thighs and drums (5 pieces of each)

  • 1 lb (450g) Russet (or Idaho) potatoes

  • 3 plum tomatoes

  • 3 medium sized yellow onions

  • 2 Lemons

  • 3 cloves garlic smashed

  • 1 Tbsp Sumac

  • 2 Tbsp Za'atar

  • 1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds

  • 1 Tsp Ras El Hanut (see note below).

  • 1 bunch Parsley

  • 1/4 cup olive oil (and another 1/4 cup for frying potatoes)

  • 1 Tbsp Pine nuts.

  • 2 tsp salt

  • 1/2 tsp black pepper


Notes:

  1. Chicken- I'm a thigh and leg person, as I believe it offer more flavor than breast and it is also better priced, hence better value. This recipe calls for the use of thighs or drums, since you are going to roast then chicken for a long time, and these parts of the chicken can sustain longer cooking periods, without drying up too much. That said, if you are completely into chicken breasts, then by all means, go for it. Do try to cook it breasts on the bone though, it will help with the long cooking period.

  2. I alway try to buy chicken parts that had not been broken down by the market butchery. The reason is purely economical, as it is priced far lower, often more than 50% lower than broken down pieces of chicken.

  3. This recipe call for various spices which are commonly used in the East Mediterranean (Levante) kitchen. These are:

  • Za'atar - Check out my recipe for homemade Za'atar. Or you can find Za'atar at your local international or Middle Eastern grocery, or online on Amazon.

  • Sumac - known for it's lemony and tartness qualities, sumac is widely used throughout the Mediterranean. Easily found at your local international or Middle eastern grocery, or online on Amazon.

  • Ras El Hanut - Literally means head of the store, or store front. This spice mix varies from region to region, and usually consists of more than 12 different spices, such as cumin, cardamon, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, all spice and more. Easily found at your local international or Middle eastern grocery, or online on Amazon.

 

Step 1


First, let's make the marinade. In a small bowl combine:

  • 1 Tbsp Sumac

  • 2 Tbsp Za'atar

  • 1 Tbsp Toasted sesame seeds

  • 2 Tsp kosher salt

  • 1 Tsp Black pepper

  • 1/4 Cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 3 cloves smashed garlic

Whisk well all ingredients and set aside.

 

Step 2


Now let's break the chicken and marinate the chicken.

  • Setup your work surface, with a cutting board, deboning knife and paper towels

  • Place chicken skin down, and identify the connecting joint (the knee), between the thigh and leg.

  • Cut with deboning knife applying some force. Then set aside on a clean tray.

  • Place a large Zip-log bag in a large bowl and transfer the chickens into the bag. I prefer this method, as it contains the possible mess in the kitchen and it also cuts down on dish washing later.

  • add 1 chicken cube to 1/2 cup hot water and dissolve. You may use other chicken stock if you happen to have one at the ready, or buy one at the store.

  • Once chicken stock at cooled down, combine with za'atar mix made earlier and pour contents into the zip bag with the chickens

  • Rub well, making sure the marinade will penetrate all the chickens in the bag.

  • Then seal the bag and refrigerate, allowing flavors to absorb and develop, for 6-8 hrs or overnight.

 

Step 3


About 30 min before getting the chickens back from the fridge, prepare the vegetables.

  • Quarter 3 medium sized onions

  • Quarter 3 plum tomatoes

  • Peel then cut potatoes into roughly 3/4" size slices

 

Step 4


Remove chickens from the fridge and pat dry them with paper towel, reserving the marinade liquid. Then in a large oven proof pot;

  • pour 1/4 cup Extra virgin Olive oil

  • Then fry chickens skin down, on both sides (roughly 5 min each side), making sure we extract as much fat from the skins that are rendering.

  • Make sure to cook chickens in batches, not overcrowding the bottom of the pot.

  • Remove chickens from pot and set aside on a tray (they will finish to cook in the oven),

  • Before frying the potatoes, infuse the oil with: 2 bay leafs, 3 cardamon pods, 2 star anise and 1 Tsp turmeric powder, and let it simmer in the pot for 2 min before adding the potatoes.

  • Add potatoes, layering them at bottom of the pan, and crisp until lightly golden brown on both sides (5-7 min each side).

  • Remove the spices as they had serve their purpose

  • Arrange chickens ontop of potatoes skin up. We want the potatoes to remain at bottom of pan, to absorb all the flavors from the chicken and vegetables cooking.

  • Then add the onions and tomatoes, filling the gaps

  • Finally, Top with the chicken stock and marinade

 

Step 5


  • Now Place Pot in a pre-heated 350 F (roughly 177 C) oven, for 1 hour with lid on. The steam from the stock and marinade will continue to cook the vegetables and chicken

  • Then remove the lid and continue to cook the chicken for another 30 minutes, reducing the liquid and browning further the chickens and vegetables.


While the chickens are in the oven, let's prepare some garnishes;


  • Toast pine nut on dry pan over medium-low heat until slightly golden brown, Remove and set aside

  • slice lemon into 1/4" wheels and sauté slightly with 1 Tbsp olive oil until golden in color

  • Roughly chop fresh parsley.

 

Step 6


  • Remove pot from oven and let it settle for 10 minutes before starting to serve.

  • To serve, start with the potatoes at the bottom, then place a piece of chicken ontop (My absolute favorite is chicken thighs, so Im going for that).

  • Top with a spoon of the Au-Jus collected at the bottom of the pan.

  • Sprinkle with fresh parsley, pine nuts and garnish with lemon wheel


The best part about this dish is that it tastes even better the next day. Also, you can easily make sandwiches from the chicken on the next day or salads.


Or... leave me a comment and let me know.


Enjoy!



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