Thursday, June 28, 2012

Recipe: Musakhan Chicken Wraps

If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy. – James Madison

Before I start I want to draw your attention to today’s quote. I went looking for something about "foreign". In case you don’t know, it was spoken by the 4th President of the USA. Mr. Madison lived from 1751-1836. Interesting how 200 years later his words have a sad, prophetic ring to them...

Wraps actually are a good choice for weekend outdoor buffet dining. Just line up
the ingredients and let people assemble their own.
But back to today’s topic. There’s two things you shouldn’t try to figure out. 

First… what’s with this weather? Tuesday was a misery of rain and we were told by none other than Cindy Day the weather girl to expect the same until Sunday. So what’s today? It’s so hot that I decided I didn’t really want to heat the kitchen by cooking.

Sumac. Photo: Wiki CC
Second, don’t try to figure out where my recipe choices come from. I gave up a long time ago. Most times I haven’t got a clue. Yesterday I did a recipe that was about as Nova Scotia traditional as you can get – beef pot pie.

Today – not so traditional – unless you’re a Nova Scotian with Palestinian roots. Then it’s every bit as traditional as biscuits with beef.

That’s because in Palestine, musakhan is a dish of the countryside. It is simple to make and the ingredients are easily obtainable at very little cost. Many of the ingredients used are widely grown in Palestine and frequently found in their cuisine.

One of the strangest ingredients – from our standpoint – is sumac. That’s because Nova Scotia has a native species of sumac—staghorn— that can be used for forage in several interesting ways. But I digress.

Sumac is a common spice in the Middle East and is easily found in Halal markets here in Nova Scotia. It is the ground berry of the Rhus bush and is used to add a lemony taste to salads or meat. 

Sumac spiced chicken.
If you can't get your hands on sumac, use 3 tablespoons of paprika and a good squeeze of lemon juice. Not the same, but will do…

There are as many recipes for musakhan chicken as there are cooks. Some layer it with bread and bake while others bake it directly IN bread (not sure how that works…).

Most of the time musakhan is served on lavash (flatbread) and eaten with the fingers. And it always is chicken with sumac and caramelized onions. By the way, I should have made my own bread. Live and learn...

Using the bread as a utensil is a bit messy for my kitchen right now so I opted for wraps. To make a “complete meal” I added some extra ingredients.

The difference was the inclusion of tomato,cucumber and garlic sauce. These are very good. The sumac and caramelization add a depth that is different from many other wraps. Of course, you can omit the tomato and cucumber and serve with lavash or pitas in the traditional way.

It has to be good if it has caramelized onions...
Musakhan Chicken Wraps
Prep: 10 min  |  Cook: 15 min  |  Serves 4
1 tbsp dried sumac
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb chicken thighs, boneless and skinless
1/2 cup water
1 large onion, sliced into rings
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
pitas, warmed
tomato, diced
cucumber, diced

Mix together the sumac, cinnamon and nutmeg in a small dish. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the chicken on both sides until done. While cooking, sprinkle with 1/2 of the spice mixture. Remove the chicken to a plate and drizzle with 1/2 of the lemon juice. Slice.

Place the water in the frying pan and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom. Then add the onions and spices. Sauté over medium heat until caramelized, about 6-7 minutes. Remove from the heat.

To serve, open a pita into a pocket and add the chicken, onions, tomato, cucumber amd garlic sauce (recipe below).

Garlic Yogurt Sauce
1 cup thick plain yogurt
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp sumac
1 tbsp lemon juice
salt to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a blender. Purée and refrigerate until ready to use.


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