You know when you try something for the first time and you are completely mesmerized by the new and wonderful flavors you are experiencing? That’s how it was for me the first time I had Musakhan. Prepared in the traditional way by a Palestinian woman, every Musakhan I had after that was just not the same. So over two decades after, I finally decided that I had to make it myself.
So I was watching the funny Bobby Chinn on his Middle Eastern food tour, and during his visit to Palestine, he visited a family that prepared him Musakhan. They had baked the special traditional bread, Taboon, for the dish. A quite thick and rustic unleavened bread that was baked directly on hot surface in an open flame oven. And this made perfect sense, this type of bread would soak up all the juicy liquids and still hold its form. So the bread was my first quest. In the old Jabriyah Co-op the traditional bakery sells Iranian bread that I guess would be somewhat similar to the Taboon bread I saw on TV. It’s thicker than the round Tanoor bread and oval in shape. So if you’re planning to make this dish head to the old Jabriyah Co-op and get two of those breads.Next was to find the recipe. Online I found Dima’s Kitchen. She has three versions of the dish, one of which was similar to the one I saw on TV – sandwich style with the chicken pulled. Of course I experimented and modified, so here it is.
For the chicken:
- 1 chicken
- I onion quartered
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 whole cloves
- 3 cardamom pods crushed
- 5 black pepper corns
- juice and peel of one lemon
Chicken roasting time: 1 1/2 hours
Put all the ingredients in a roasting bag, tie securely and place in a roasting pan. Cover the chicken with aluminum foil (so the chicken doesn’t brown). When done, remove the chicken and drain the broth through a sieve. You will end up with a concentrated and very flavorful broth. Season the broth and keep it warm, not hot, in a pot until ready to use. Pull the chicken into a bowl and mix in 1/2 cup of the seasoned broth to moisten the chicken and cover until ready to use.
For the onions:
- 500 grams thinly sliced white onions
- 1/4 cup good quality sumac
- 1/4 cup good quality olive oil
The onion method:
Cooking time: 45 minutes
Heat: Stove top, Medium to low heat
While the chicken is roasting, cook the onions in the olive oil on medium to low heat until softened. Add 1 cup of warm water and continue cooking until the water has almost evaporated and the onions have sweetened and become golden brown and soft, not brown and crispy. Mix in the sumac.
Assembling the sandwich:
- You will need 1/2 cup of pine nuts lightly toasted in olive oil
Cut the very ends of the breads to get somewhat of a rectangular shape. Place the bread in aluminum foil lined baking trays. Spoon equal portions of the broth to cover each bread until completely moistened. Then generously drizzle olive oil over the bread. Prick the bread with a fork so some of the oil and broth soak through the bread.
Spread equal portions of the onions on the breads. Then top the onions with equal portions of the pulled chicken.
Sprinkle the pine nuts on top. Finally drizzly more olive oil on the edges of the bread.
Baking the Musakhan:
Baking time: 15 minutes
Oven temperature: 200 degrees celsius
Eat immediately! Otherwise, prepare the assembled the Musakhan and keep it covered and ready ahead of time. Bake it 15 minutes before you’re ready to eat.