Chicken with Onions and Sumac (Djaj bi-Basal wa Sumac)

This lemony, perfumed chicken dish uses a fragrant stock to temper the acidity of lemon and sumac. It appears in the now out-of-print cookbook Seductive Flavors of the Levant.

Chicken with Onions and Sumac (Djaj bi-Basal wa Sumac)
This Middle-Eastern recipe for chicken with onions and sumac was adapted from a classic cookbook from the region.
Yield: serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 medium roasting chicken, cut into pieces
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 2 white onions, one peeled whole and studded with 5 cloves, one peeled and sliced
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil
  • ⅓ cups pine nuts
  • 3 tbsp. sumac
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp. ground allspice
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¾ cups lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Make the stock: Place chicken pieces and neck and back into water over high heat in a large, heavy pot. Add celery, the clove-studded onion, cinnamon stick, and loose peppercorns. Bring to a boil, skim, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for one hour. Remove chicken from the stock and allow to cool. Reserve 1-¼ cups cooking liquid and set aside. (Keep the remaining stock for another use.)
  2. While the chicken is cooling, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-low heat and add pine nuts. Cook until they take on a medium-golden hue, stirring constantly to avoid burning. Remove the pine nuts using a slotted spoon and set aside, leaving the oil in pan. Add sliced onions to the oil and sweat over low heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the sumac, salt, pepper, allspice and cinnamon; turn off heat and stir in lemon juice. Add the reserved cooking liquid to this mixture and set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 350. Shred the chicken using your fingers (discarding bones) and place it in a baking dish. Pour the onion mixture over the chicken and bake for 25 minutes, or until the meat is slightly browned and the liquid has reduced by about a third. When the chicken is done, serve it hot over white rice or warm pita, topped with the toasted pine nuts.