This has become my new favorite chicken dish. The chicken part of the recipe is fast and easy –made with an Arabic spice blend, called Baharat, that can be whipped up in minutes. The word “Baharat” simply means “spices” in Arabic, and this wonderfully complex blend has a unique balance of flavors. The chicken is rubbed down with salt and Baharat Spice, seared on the stove and finished in the oven until golden and crispy. Serve with saffron rice, cucumber yogurt sauce and salad and you’ll have a simple, delicious, Middle Eastern style dinner.
Baharat is often used in Arabic cooking- most commonly in Persian and Turkish dishes to add spice and a little heat to meat dishes, couscous, and tagines. The warm exotic flavors of Baharat are an easy way to spice up simple dishes and give them a little intrigue.
To make the Baharat spice mix, place all the spices in a coffee grinder, and pulse until it is ground.
If you can’t find Black Lemons, don’t fret, just leave them out.
If you don’t have whole seeds, but have the ground spice, it’s perfectly OK to substitute ground spices, although the more whole seeds you have, the better the flavor. But don’t let the lack of the whole seeds stop you from making this.
Black Lemons are actually dried limes, and owe their misnomer to the English translation from Arabic. They’re used in Middle East cooking to add sourness or acidity to chutneys, soups and stews and even ground into flat breads. Ground Black Lemons have a sweet-tart flavor that is unique and really has no substitute, so for this recipe, leave it out if you can’t track one down. A friend gave me this one which she got at The Asian Market on Trent. You can also order them on-line.
Use long grain basmati rice or long grain Jasmine rice. Do not use a short grain rice. FYI, I had less success with this brown basmati rice in the photo, so if possible use regular basmati or even a long grain Jasmine rice. Rinse the rice several times and soak for 30 minutes in warm water. Rinse again. Par boil the rice: boil it like you would pasta, in generously salted boiling water until al dente. Depending on the rice, this will take 5 -10 minutes. Brown rice takes longer. You want the rice to be almost done. This is key.
While the rice is boiling toast a pinch of saffron for a minute. Place it in a bowl, with 2 T of the boiling salted water. Let is sit and infuse the water.
( You can substitute turmeric for the saffron, if you prefer, and skip toasting it)
Once the rice is cooked, strain and rinse again several times until the water runs clear, removing all the starch. Drain. Stir 1 Cup of the par boiled rice to the yogurt saffron mixture. Set aside.
Poke several “steam holes” into the rice with a chop stick or the end of a wooded spoon.
Cover the pot with a kitchen towel and then the lid.
Turn the heat to high for 2-3 minutes until you see visible puffs of steam. This will be obvious -so wait until you see it. Once you see the puffs of steam, turn heat to medium for 8 minutes, then turn heat to low for 32 minutes. Cooking for a tool of 40 minutes. Don’t be tempted to remove the lid.
After the timer goes off, place the whole pot in a sink or large bowl filled with very cold water, for one minute, so water is at least 2-3 inches up the sides. This will shock the rice and help it release from the sides.
2 Tablespoons Baharat Spice Blend ( see below)
Salt to taste
2 T olive oil
Pre heat oven to 400F
Sprinkle both sides of chicken generously with kosher salt. Rub in a generous amount (¾ teaspoon each) of Baharat Spice on both sides of each pieces of chicken. If you have time to do this 30 minutes ahead, before cooking, even better.
Heat 2 T oil in a large oven proof skillet over medium high heat. Sear chicken, in hot oil, skin side down for 3- 4 minutes, until golden and crispy. Turn over and sear other side, turning heat down to medium. Sear another 3-4 minutes. Place the skillet in the middle of the oven, uncovered, and baked until cooked through, about 15- 20 minutes or until internal temp reaches 180 F ( for thighs) and juices run clear. Remove form the oven and let rest 5 minutes before serving.
Baharat Spice Blend
1 T cumin seeds (or 1 T ground)
1 T coriander seeds ( or 1 T ground)
1 T whole peppercorns ( or 2 tsp)
½ of one whole nutmeg ( or 1 tsp ground)
10 whole unpeeled cardamon pod or (½ tsp ground)
2 inches piece cinnamon stick (or 2 tsp ground)
½ tsp ground allspice
8 whole cloves (or 1 tsp ground)
¼ of a black lemon (optional)
1 star anise ( optional)
Pulse all in a spice grinder until ground.
Cucumber Yogurt Sauce:
1 Cup plain thick Greek yogurt
2 small persian cucumbers cut lengthwise, then thinly sliced ( or 1 C english cucumber) Skin ok.
2 -3 T chopped fresh mint, dill, italian parsley or cilantro ( or a combination is nice)
1-2 T lemon juice
1-2 minced garlic cloves
½ tsp kosher salt -or salt to taste.
pepper to taste, white pepper is a nice touch.
pinch of cayenne or squirt of sirracha sauce.
Place all ingredients in a medium sized bowl, stir and refridgerate until ready to serve.
Chelow with Saffron Yogurt Crust ( serves 4)
2 C long grain white basmati rice ( white works best)
2 T plain yogurt
1 pinch saffron ( 20 threads) or ½ tsp tumeric powder
1 egg ( optional)
1 T oil
1 T butter
2 T water
10 C Water and and 2 T salt for par -boiling ( you will rinse)
Read the instructions through a couple times…. and practice once before attempting to serve guests.
Rinse the rice several times and let sit in warm water for 30 minutes. Rinse again. Drain.
In a large pot bring 2 Cups rice to boil in 10 C water with 2 T salt.
Boil for 5 minutes or until cooked al dente, just until almost done. For white rice this was 5 minutes, for brown rice this was 10 + minutes.
In a small bowl, mix saffron threads with 2 T boiling water ( just borrow from the boiling rice ). Set aside 5 minutes. In medium bowl, mix 2 T yogurt, generous pinch salt and 1 egg (optional). Add saffron water, stir.
When rice is al dente, ( tender but not mushy) drain, rinse with cold water until water runs clear, removing all the starch.
Add about 1 C of the par boiled rice into the bowl with Yogurt Saffron mixture.
Line the bottom of 8-10 diameter deep sauté pan or pot (that has a tight fitting lid) with a circle of parchment paper. Place on the stove over Med High heat. Add butter, olive oil and a 2 T water on TOP of the parchment. When butter has melted, swirl it around and it will begin to sizzle. Add the yogurt rice mix in an even layer over the parchment. Spoon in the rest of the rice, gently building a pyramid ( don’t just dump it in- or will loose its light quality).
*At this point- you could also layer in fresh dill, mint,or parsley, slivered almonds, pine nuts or even golden raisins, or dried apricots, cumin seed or coriander seed.) With the end of a spoon or chopstick poke 5 steam holes down through the rice.
Cover pot with a thin kitchen towel (or two layers of paper towels- snip corners) then place lid over towel and wrap the lid with towel, so the edges don’t catch on fire. See photo.
Turn heat to HIGH for 2-3 minutes until steam visibly puffs out of the pot. It will be obvious and easy to see. When it begins steaming, turn heat to medium for 8 minutes, then turn to low heat for 32 minutes. Don’t be temped to uncover. After 32 minutes, either fill sink or large bowl with cold water deep enough to submerge the pot 2-3 inches up the sides. Place the rice pot in the cold water, to shock it, to help it release form the sides… for a few minutes. Remove lid and towel. You could also run a spatula around the edges. Place a large platter or plate over the top of the pot, and invert the whole thing, shaking a little and knocking the bottom of the pot so it releases. Hopefully it comes out in one piece. If it sticks, using a sharp metal spatula, scrape and coax it out, piecing it together over the rice. Sprinkle with fresh herbs, like parsley or mint, or dill. Serve immediately.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4