Musakhan (Palestinian Sumac chicken with sauteed onions)

msakhan
msakhan
Musakhan is one of the most popular and traditional Palestinian recipes. It is usually prepared during the olive oil pressing season to celebrate freshly pressed oil but you can see it on the menu all year round in family gatherings and parties. Musakhan is all about fresh, simple ingredients allowed to shine. Good olive oil, tangy sumac,a hint of spices, onions caramelized to the point of being sweet and tender, perfectly roasted chicken and fresh bread. Simple yet you have to taste it to see how a dish can be much more than the sum of its parts.
Sumac is one of the main players in Musakhan, it is a spice that comes from the berries of the Rhus shrubs. The berries are dried and then ground to give a purplish deep red powder that is sour, slightly fruity and astringent. It is used in the middle eastern cuisine to add a sour, lemony taste to chicken, salads and salad dressings. It is also used as a garnish for different dips and salads. The amount I am using here is my personal preference, you can use more sumac or less, it is really up to your taste
Taboon bread another key player here, is a traditional bread that is usually baked in a very hot oven lined with small round smooth stones. The stones give the bread its dimpled appearance. If you can’t find taboon bread you can replace it with any flat bread you like, just make sure it is not too thin because it needs to withstand holding the onions and chicken

Musakhan

 This recipe was requested by my best friend, I am sorry Rasha it took me so long to post, I hope you will enjoy it :)
To make 2 medium loaves (4 servings)
1 kg onions peeled and chopped
2 cups olive oil
2 tablespoons Sumac
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Salt
1 chicken cut into 4 pieces
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 loaves taboon bread
For the decoration
Nuts for topping (pine nuts or almonds are the most commonly used ones)
1 tablespoon sumac

The onions:

Make sure you don’t chop the onions too fine or they will get too soft with cooking and lose texture

  •  place the onions in a pot and add enough olive oil to submerge the onions completely (it may vary a little with the size of your pot but it took me 2 cups)
  • Cook the onions over low heat stirring occasionally till the onions are translucent but still hold their shape and have some texture, you don’t want them to get mushy (this will take 20- 30 minutes)
  • Once the onions are done,place them in a colander to drain off the olive oil. Do not discard the oil.
  • After all the oil has been drained off, sprinkle the onions with sumac, cardamom and black pepper and toss them till they are completely coated with sumac (note that the color and the taste will deepen when you leave the onions aside so add the sumac gradually, you can always add more if you want)

The chicken

Ideally you should use bone in chicken cutlets but you can use boneless chicken if you want.
Season the chicken on both sides  with 1/4 teaspoon cardamom,1/4 teaspoon black pepper and a pinch of salt.
You have a number of options for cooking the chicken:
  1. Sear the chicken pieces till they are golden brown and then add them to the onions as they are cooking
  2. Poach the chicken until done and then place them in the oven under the broiler to give them color.
  3. cook them in a separate pan using medium heat till they are completely done (cook them stove top)
I usually go with No. 3, I place the chicken cutlets in a pot or pan , skin side down and cook over medium heat till the skin is golden brown, I then lower the heat,flip them and cook them on the other side till they are done (170 F on the thermometer inserted in the thickest area of the chicken). This takes 20-30 minutes.
To add more flavor to the onions and the chicken, I add the drained onions to the chicken in the last 5 minutes of cooking and stir gently.

To assemble the musakhan

Pre heat your oven to 200 C and place the rack on the bottom
I usually place the loaf in the oven for 2-3 minutes to crisp it slightly (this prevents it from going soggy when you top it with the onions).If you like your bread a little soggy you can skip this step
Brush the bread with some of the olive oil you strained from cooking the onions and top it with onions and chicken
place in the oven for 10 minutes
Take out of the oven and top with nuts,sprinkle with the sumac and  serve with yogurt.

Musakhan wraps

If you want to make Musakhan wraps, you need shrak bread but you can use any flat bread you like if you can’t find shrak.
Top the bread with chopped onions and shredded cooked chicken, some nuts.
Roll and brush with some oil and heat in a sandwich press or in the oven.