This chicken dish has definitely become a family favorite. It has so much flavor for something so simple.
The tartness of the sumac, the earthiness of the pine nuts, and the brightness of the lemons all combine to make a memorable meal.
And of course the za’atar. Supper club irregulars know I love za’atar and keep it handy. If you don’t remember, mine is a simple spice blend of sumac, dried thyme, toasted sesame seeds, and kosher salt. (You can also buy it pre-made from spice shops such as Penzeys.)
And I buy my organic pine nuts from Costco. They’re a bit hard on the wallet elsewhere.
This recipe is from Ottolenghi: the Cookbook and was the first dish I made from that book. I knew of Yotam Ottolenghi as a chef on TV who made beautiful and delicious sounding food. He is an Israeli-British chef working out of London with several successful restaurants.
Slice the red onion and lemon thin. The recipe calls for two onions but this is another judgement call you have to make when you cook. As you can see in the picture, my lemon and my onion are both on the rather large side. So I decided to just use the one onion. I have used two smaller onions in the past and, no surprise here, it came out the same.
While you can marinate the chicken for just a few hours, it definitely benefits from an overnight sleepover in the refrigerator.
Cut the chicken into quarters — two each of the breast and wing plus leg and thigh.
Mix the chicken pieces with the onion and lemon slices, crushed garlic, olive oil, chicken stock, spices (but NOT the za’atar), salt, and pepper in a big bowl.
Seal the bowl with plastic wrap and let it marinate in the refrigerator. Like I said, overnight is best. (And remind me to talk about plastic wrap someday soon.)
The recipe calls for toasting the pine nuts in a little butter with a pinch of salt over medium heat. Keep an eye on them, keep them moving around frequently. Drain them on a paper towel once they’re browned.
Measure out your za’atar. Chef Ottolenghi notes at the end of his recipe that you can use extra za’atar and/or sumac once it comes out of the oven. I haven’t felt the need to do that — the spices called for seem spot on to me — but you do you. I am not the poster boy for za’atar restraint.
Preheat the oven to 400ºF / 200ºC.
Arrange the bowl of chicken (skin side up) and its marinade on a rimmed baking sheet best you can to get it evenly spread out.
Sprinkle the za’atar over top. Into the oven for 30 to 40 minutes. You can test the doneness of the chicken with a meat thermometer at the thickest part. It should read at least 160ºF – 165ºF. Remember, it will continue to cook for a few minutes once it’s outside the oven.
Once done, transfer everything to a serving bowl or platter.
Scatter the toasted pine nuts evenly over the top.
Sprinkle with the chopped parsley.
Drizzle with a bit more olive oil if you want. (I realize not everyone likes that.)
Ottolenghi roast chicken with sumac, za'atar, and lemon
So much flavor for a simple chicken dish. The tartness of the sumac, the earthiness of the pine nuts, and the brightness of the lemons all combine to make a memorable dish.
- 1 large organic or free-range chicken, divided into quarters: breast and wing, leg and thigh
- 2 red onions, thinly sliced 1 large, 2 medium, or 3 small.
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed Good-sized cloves. If yours are small, use an extra.
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
- 1-1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon sumac
- 1 lemon, thinly sliced
- 1 scant cup chicken stock or water I recommend stock, preferably homemade of course.
- 1-1/2 teaspoon salt, plus extra
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons za'atar
- 4 teaspoons unsalted butter Which is 1-1/3 tablespoons.
- 6 tablespoons pine nuts
- 4 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Slice the onions and lemon thinly. Crush the garlic. Quarter the chicken. Measure out your spices.
In a big bowl, mix the lemon slices, onion slices, garlic, chicken stock, salt, pepper, and spices -- except the za'atar. Stir everything together well. Then add the chicken pieces and toss a bit to make sure they're well-coated and covered.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (or at least a few hours).
Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
Spread the contents of the bowl as evenly as you can on a rimmed baking sheet. Make sure the chicken pieces are skin-side up. Sprinkle the za'atar evenly over top.
Roast in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes.
Melt the butter in a small pan, add a pinch of salt, and carefully toast the pine nuts. Remove to a paper towel to drain when done.
Once the chicken's done, transfer everything to a serving bowl or platter. Scatter the pine nuts over top. Sprinkle with the parsley. And drizzle a bit of olive oil over everything (if you want).
Sprinkle with additional za'atar and/or sumac if desired.
It’s an adventurous dish flavor-wise compared to a more simple, onion-carrot-celery-potato roasting (which as you know I adore), but it’s quite good and I hope you’ll give it a try.