Musakhan is perhaps one of the most unique and distinctive – and beloved – dishes in Middle Eastern cuisine, despite relying on very few ingredients. Hearty, juicy chicken and onions get a tangy, zesty infusion of sumac and a generous sprinkling of toasted pine nuts. Bread is also an essential part of musakhan, and can be used several different ways in the dish: sometimes, it forms a base for stacking the onions and chicken. Alternatively, the entire dish can be encased in the bread, much like a delicious gift package. And other times still, the onions and chicken are rolled up in bread to create musakhan rolls. However you serve it, this iconic combination of flavors is truly exceptional and unforgettable.
Prep time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
3 whole chicken legs, extra fat trimmed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
8 large onions, sliced thinly
4 tbsp sumac
3-6 pieces of taboon or naan bread
1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil over a medium-high stove. To keep the oil from splashing up, use a splatter guard or, if you don’t have one, simply use less olive oil. Once heated, add the chicken and brown it on both sides – about 8 minutes per side. Remove the chicken and set aside on a platter. Add the sliced onions to the pot and cook until translucent. Return the chicken to the pot and add the sumac, salt, and pepper.
Loosely cover the pot and continue cooking until the chicken is falling off the bone and the onions are very soft and browning – about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally and reduce heat as necessary to avoid burning the onions.
To serve, brush the flatbread with olive oil, then add a layer of onions on top, followed by the chicken. Garnish with sumac and toasted pine nuts.
Enjoy with plain yogurt and green olives.
For lighter portions, cut the whole leg at the joint and divide the leg and thigh pieces over 6 pieces of bread instead of 3. You can use any leftover chicken and onions to make musakhan rolls: just roll up the ingredients into pieces of thin lavash or shrak bread. Stick them in the oven for about 15 minutes until they’re slightly crispy. You can eat these delightful rolls hot or cold.