Musakhkhan (pronounced m-SAKH-khn) is eaten throughout the bilad ash-sham – Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan – to celebrate the end of the olive-picking season. When the new oil arrives from the press, this meal is enjoyed on a big platter with all hands sitting around it and eating from the same dish. It is not intended to be light – it is a celebration of the production of another year's oil!
2 quartered chickens or 4 breasts & 4 thighs
¼ cup ground sumaq + more to taste & garnish
¼ t ground nutmeg
¼ t ground cinnamon
½ t freshly ground black pepper
2 T sea salt
juice of 3 lemons
1 K (2 lbs.) thinly sliced onions
1 cup chicken stock
taboun bread or (if you aren't in the Middle East) 5-6 rounds of "pita" bread
½ cup lightly toasted pine nuts
½ cup lightly toasted blanched almonds
- Combine the sumac, spices, and salt. Set aside 2 T and mix the rest with the lemon juice and ¼ cup olive oil.
- Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Rub the spice mix into the chicken let it sit for several hours – up to a day.
- Toast the nuts and set aside (toast lightly, because they will go back into the oven later).
- Slice the onions and toss them with enough olive oil to coat them. Coat the bottom of a skillet with a thin layer of chicken stock and place the onions in the skillet. Sprinkle the reserved spices over the top. Fry the onions over low medium heat until they are nearly caramelized, but not burnt. Add a little more stock in the process if necessary.
[These steps may be done a day in advance and stored overnight in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature when you resume cooking.]
- Preheat oven to 400F / 210C. Grease a baking sheet with olive oil and put the chicken skin-side down on the baking sheet. Cover with the onion mixture and cover all with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven.
- On a round metal or ceramic (i.e., ovenproof) serving dish drizzle olive oil and arrange the bread to cover the pan. Drizzle olive oil over the top of the bread, and place in the oven until it starts to get crisp (a few minutes). Remove from the oven, remove foil, and brush the bread lightly with chicken stock. Place the chicken now skin-side UP on the bread, and surround/ sprinkle with onions. Sprinkle more olive oil over the top. Sprinkle sumaq over it all, if desired.
- Bake for 15 minutes, then sprinkle it all with the toasted nuts and return to the oven until the chicken-skin is crispy brown (5-10 minutes).
- Serve on individual plates, and slice the onion-covered bread with a pizza-slicer as a side dish, or use the bread to eat from the same platter. Put small dishes of cold yogurt (garnished with sumaq if desired) around the platter, and several bowls of oil in which to dip the hot bread.