Sunday, June 21, 2009

remains of the (birth)day: za'atar chicken
and fattoush (zucchini patties to follow)

If there's a common theme to the three dishes I cooked on June 8--and a theme to this, my first post here--it's this: SALT.

The main course of the birthday meal featured Za'atar Chicken (c/o Nigella Lawson), Zucchini Patties with Feta (Bon Appetit), and Fattoush (Ms. Lawson again), plus some parsley-full tabouli (their spelling) from Sahadi's. Salting went as follows: chicken, slightly undersalted; patties, nicely salted; fattoush, seriously undersalted. I usually am not shy with the Kosher stuff, but I made two crucial errors here: I ignored my instincts to aggressively salt meat before putting it in the oven, despite the recipe's not instructing to do so (the chicken); and simply forgetting to add another big hit of salt after tasting for seasoning and before bringing the dish to the table (the fattoush). I would say all three of these dishes were quite solid, though the fattoush and the chicken could have been great instead of just pretty darn good. Snarf, snarf.

Za'atar Chicken
Adapted from Forever Summer, by Nigella Lawson

Note: I added some lemons, cut in eighths, to the roasting pan before putting it in the oven. This had the desired effect of imparting a mild lemony flavor to the chicken and creating a nice lemony liquor at the bottom of the pan; the lemons were not, however, particularly edible themselves. They would best be roasted separately, for longer.

1 chicken, cut into 8 pieces or 8 mixed chicken pieces [I used a few whole legs and a few half breasts]
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbsp za'atar [you could easily double this and not have too much za’atar; in fact, I’d recommend sprinkling a little extra on the chicken right before it goes into the oven]
Maldon salt to taste

In large mixing bowl or resealable plastic bag, combine chicken, oil and za'atar. Rub spices and oil all over chicken pieces. Cover (or close) and refrigerate 2 hours to overnight.

Transfer chicken to baking sheet, skin side up. [THIS IS WHERE I TIMIDLY SALTED THE BIRD, DESPITE NOT BEING TOLD TO. I WISH I’D USED 1.5 TIMES AS MUCH.] Roast in preheated 425F oven 45 minutes.

Sprinkle with salt. [I'LL SAY.]

Adapted from Forever Summer, by Nigella Lawson

2 pita
3 fat scallions, halved and sliced
1 cucumber, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and chopped
3 tomatoes, diced
1 bunch of fresh flat-leafed parsley, chopped
1 bunch fresh mint, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
6-8 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon (extra to taste)
½ teaspoon sumac
Sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Cut pita breads open lengthwise, so you have 4 thin halves, and lay on a baking sheet. Toast for 5 minutes.

3. In a bowl, combine scallions, cucumber, tomatoes, parsley, mint, and garlic. Cut pita into triangular pieces over the salad. Toss salad and dress with olive oil and lemon juice. Season with salt, and sprinkle over the sumac.

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