A dish that will have you running to purchase more sumac
Musakhan is one of Palestine’s culinary treasures, and once you’ve had a taste of it, you’ll understand why Musakhan is traditionally prepared during the olive harvest season, it’s all about celebrating the year’s good harvest and coming together.
The dish’s communal nature, with large portions served on a single platter, encourages sharing and eating with one’s hands, making it a culinary ritual that fosters unity and togetherness.
Musakhan is a Palestinian specialty featuring roasted chicken and sumac-caramelized onions, generously garnished with pine nuts and served atop taboon bread that has been pre-soaked in olive oil.
While taboon bread is the traditional choice for this dish, it may not always be readily available outside of the Middle East. In such cases, naan or a thick flatbread can be used as a substitute. Sumac, a key spice, is added to the onions to give the dish its distinct tart, lemony flavor. It’s important to note that you should opt for deep purple sumac and avoid the pinkish variety for the best results.
Here’s a pro tip: Since Musakhan is typically eaten with your hands, be sure to have plenty of tissues nearby, as it can get a bit messy!
6chicken legs, bone-in, skin on If you like, divide the legs to thighs and drumsticks. You can also use chicken breast pieces, if you prefer.
extra virgin olive oil
1 ½tspspice mixture from above
extra virgin olive oil
6yellow onionschopped or sliced thin
1Tbspsumacplus more for later
2tspspice mixture from above
⅓cuptoasted pine nutsmore or less to your liking
6flatbread such as Taboon bread, Greek pita bread, or naan
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (or 190 degrees C).
Make the spice mixture. In a small bowl, combine allspice, cinnamon, coriander, black pepper, cardamom and nutmeg. Mix well.
Prepare and cook the chicken. Pat chicken pieces dry and place them on a lightly oiled sheet pan (or roasting pan). Drizzle generously with extra virgin olive oil, season with kosher salt on both sides. Add 1 teaspoon sumac and 1 ½ teaspoon of the spice mixture. Give the chicken a good rub with your hands, making sure to get the spices underneath the skin. Arrange the chicken pieces skin side up and place on the middle rack of your heated oven. Roast for about 1 hour or until fully cooked (internal temperature should register 165 degrees F.)
Prepare caramelized onion mixture for flatbread. While the chicken is roasting, work on the caramelized onions. In a large cooking skillet, put just over ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, chopped onions, kosher salt, 1 tablespoon sumac, 1 tablespoon cumin, and 2 teaspoon of the spice mixture. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, adding a little bit of water (2tbsp or so at a time) as needed, until the onions have softened and cooked completely (about 30 to 40 minutes). Remove from heat.
Check on the chicken, and if ready, remove from the oven. Pour any roasting pan juices into the caramelized onions. Cover chicken loosely with aluminum foil for about 15 minutes, while you assemble the flatbreads.
Assemble Musakhan Flatbreads. Turn on your broiler. To assemble flatbreads, dip the edges of each bread in the oil on the surface of the onion mixture. Arrange flatbreads on a large baking sheet (you may do a couple flatbreads at a time). Spread enough of the caramelized onion mixture on the surface of each flatbread, leaving a small border around the edge (like pizza). Add a generous sprinkle of sumac. Add toasted pine nuts. Place under the broiler briefly (2 to 4 mins), watching carefully, until edges and onion mixture are nicely browned.
To serve Musakhan: When flatbreads are ready, top each with a chicken portion and serve along with a side of olives and simple Mediterranean salad.