Ground sumac is the star of this deeply savory Palestinian chicken dish that is eaten spooned onto soft pita breads. Its tart, citrusy flavor is balanced by the sweetness of the sautéed onion and rich pine nuts. Look for sumac in well-stocked grocery stores, spice shops, and Middle Eastern markets; it can also be ordered online.
Don’t crowd the chicken in the pot or stir it as it browns; both hinder the caramelization that builds complexity in the dish. Don’t skip the tahini for drizzling at the table. Its nutty flavor and richness complement the chicken. And since tahini separates on standing, don’t forget to stir it well before serving.
Editor’s note: This recipe comes to us from Milk Street Tuesday Nights, as does Braised Chickpeas and Spinach with Smoked Paprika and Garlic (Guisat de Cigrons) and Whole-Wheat Penne with Broccolini and Chèvre.
Sumac-Spiced (Chicken Musakhan)
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, trimmed, cut into 2-inch pieces, patted dry
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil divided
- 1 large yellow onion halved and thinly sliced
- 4 medium garlic cloves thinly sliced
- ½ cup toasted pine nuts ¼ cup chopped, ¼ cup whole
- 4 tablespoons ground sumac divided
- 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- Four 8-inch pita bread rounds
- ½ cup lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley chopped
- Tahini to serve
- Heat the oven to 250°F with a rack in the middle position. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven over high, heat 1 tablespoon of oil until barely smoking. Add half the chicken in a single layer and cook undisturbed until well browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with another 1 tablespoon of oil and the remaining chicken.
- Add 2 tablespoons oil to the pot and heat over medium until shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, chopped pine nuts, 3 tablespoons of the sumac and the paprika. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Stir in 3 cups water and bring to a simmer. Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the pot. Cover, reduce to medium-low and cook until a skewer inserted into the chicken meets no resistance, about 10 minutes. While the chicken simmers, wrap the pita tightly in foil and place in the oven to warm.
- Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a bowl. Bring the liquid to a simmer over medium-high and cook, stirring, until most of the moisture has evaporated,
- 10 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, use 2 forks to shred the chicken into bite-size pieces. When the sauce has reduced, return the chicken to the pot and stir in the ¼ cup whole pine nuts. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Cover to keep warm.
- Remove the pita from the oven and unwrap. Brush on both sides with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon sumac. Cut each pita in half. Stir the parsley into the chicken and transfer to a serving bowl. Serve with the pita and tahini for drizzling.
Used with permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York. All rights reserved.