Rediscovering Palestinian Cuisine

Musakhan (Roast chicken on Taboon bread)

Musakhan (Roast chicken on Taboon bread)

Get yourself ready with a fork and a spoon
To taste Musakhan biltaboon
A famous dish from Palestine
That holds in our culture a great sign
Made of bread that’s round and flat
With onions sprinkled on a sumac mat
A chunk of chicken be it leg or breast
Topped up with pine nuts to taste the best
Then greased with a lot of olive oil
To turn your stomach to turmoil
When done in the oven just pull out and dine
Et Bon appetit from Palestine!

 What better meal to feature the launch of our new project than our own national dish, Musakhan! Historically Musakhan was usually prepared to celebrate the olive harvest as a way to test freshly produced olive oil.  It is a dish meant for many–one that you can typically eat with your hands, surrounded by friends and family.

Musakhan is usually made using Taboon Bread, which is thick and bubbly and perfect for capturing the olive oil, poultry juices, and tangy sumac and other spices that are layered on top. The bread is traditionally prepared in a pebbled oven that gives it texture and keeps the temperature very hot.

Sumac, one of the prominent ingredients in Musakhan, is a spice that comes from Rhus shrub berries. The berries are dried and grounded to give a purplish deep red powder, which is sour and tangy.

 Fun fact

On April 20, 2010, the largest ever dish of Musakhan was prepared in Ramallah, Palestine and entered it into the Guinness Book of World Records. “This great achievement completely depended on Palestinian products; mainly olive oil,” said Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad. The total diameter of the ‘Musakhan’ loaf was 4 meters, with a total weight of 1,350 kg. Forty Palestinian cooks made use of 250 kg of flour, 170 kg of olive oil, 500 kg of onions and 70 kg of almonds.

Recipe

For the onions:

  • 2 lbs onions, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cups olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Sumac
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Salt
  1. Chop the onions coarsely–they should not be too small or they will lose texture when cooking. Place the chopped onions a pot and add enough olive oil to submerge the onions completely.
  2. Gently cook the onions over low heat. You may stir them occasionally until the onions are translucent and not browned (about 20-30 minutes).
  3. Once the onions are done, place them in a colander and drain the olive oil into a bowl or jar. Do not discard the olive oil as it will be used later.
  4. After the onions are drained, sprinkle them with the sumac, cardamom, and black pepper and toss them until they are completely coated with sumac. The flavor and color will deepen over time, so you may add the sumac gradually. Place the onions aside.

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For the chicken:

  • 2 chicken breasts and 2-4 legs, or 1 whole chicken cut into 4 pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Salt
  1. Clean your chicken pieces–we here at Intifooda rinse them with cool water and lemon juice, rubbing the meat with the squeezed lemon. It’s a very simple Old World way to disinfect your poultry.
  2. Place the chicken in a baking dish, drizzle with a bit of olive oil and rub chicken with cardamom, pepper, allspice, cumin, chili powder, cinnamon, and salt until coated.
  3. Bake the chicken 30 minutes at 400F while covered with a lid or tin foil, then another 30 minutes uncovered so that it browns. If you are unsure the chicken is cooked through, use a meat thermometer. Chicken should be at least 160F inside, and the juices should run clear.

All together, now:

Lightly toast the taboon or lavash bread so that it can withstand the toppings. We found it easiest to crisp the bread a bit in the oven, about 200F for 5 minutes. Brush the olive oil you saved from the onions onto the bread, or dip the middle of the bread into the oil. Top the bread with the onions, and then place the chicken pieces on each round of bread. Generously sprinkle with sumac, leftover onions, and more of the olive oil. You may add toasted pine nuts for decoration and a more complex flavor. This dish is best when (and meant to be) eaten with your fingers. And because we’re aspiring Arabic grandmothers, we’re going to tell you to wash your hands before you eat, people.

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For the decoration

  • Nuts for topping (pine nuts or almonds are the most commonly used ones)
  • 1 tablespoon sumac

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Alternatives:

  • Sumac is a common spice in the Middle East and can be found in most Middle Eastern markets. If you can’t find it, use 3 tablespoons of paprika and a good squeeze of lemon juice. The flavor will not be exactly the same but it’s a decent stand-in.
  • Palestinians use bread called shrak or taboon for this dish. More commonly available Lavash bread is very similar or Indian naan. Or use 2 or 3 pieces of pita bread that have been split in two horizontally.
  • If you have it available, you can add a pinch of saffron to the sautéing onions.

 Tabboon Recipe (if you’re feeling adventurous)

  • 5 lbs bread flour
  • 2 tsp dry yeast
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 6 3/4 cups of warm water + 1/4 cup
  1. In a small bowl filled with 1/4 cup vegetable oil. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, add flour and salt. Mix both together thoroughly with a whisk.  Measure out the rest of your 4 & 3/4 cups of warm water and set them down, alongside your yeast mixture.Next, add your 2 cups of water with yeast and begin to knead through bringing the outside perimeter of the dough into the center. Repeat until the dough starts to come together and becomes sticky.
  2. Kneading time is at least 15 minutes. Start by adding the 4 3/4 cups of water slowly, mixing with your hands to incorporate. Knead through as much as you can, don’t worry if it doesn’t come together all at once.
  3. Fill a measuring cup with 2 cups of warm water,. Add your yeast and sugar, give it a stir. Allow to sit for 5 minutes, It‘s ready when it foams up.
  4. Keep kneading and forming the dough into a round mass until your 15 minutes are up. First, add the last 1/4 cup of warm water onto your dough until the dough is more uniform about 4 -5 minutes. Rub the top of the dough and sides with oil. Cover the bowl and allow the llow to rise for 2 hours.
  5. Heat your oven up to 500-525 degrees.
  6. Depending on the size, you can cut the dough into small balls and allow it to rise again (until it puffs up) 20 minutes.
  7. Prepare your baking tray by spraying it with non-stick spray and throwing it in the oven for about 5 minutes ( for bubble appearance you can ad on some pebbles).
  8. Stretch the dough (like making pizza dough) onto the pan, make sure they do not stick together. Bake for 7-10 minutes…..enjoy!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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