Thursday, September 22, 2016

My Grandmother's Lebanese-Spiced Chicken


This is my easy version of the warmly-spiced chicken my Lebanese grandmother served every Christmas and Easter. She lived with my grandfather in a small apartment in Brooklyn, New York. The bright and flavorful Eastern Mediterranean feasts she created from her tiny yellow kitchen impressed everyone. She loved to cook for her family and friends. On Christmas day, she always served a whole roasted chicken with delicious rice pilaf. The pan juices from the chicken were served over the rice. Along with the chicken and rice, my grandmother made stuffed grape leaves, lemony salads, hummus, baklava and date cookies. There was plenty of fresh pita bread too. Her modest-home was full of good food and lots of love.

Instead of a whole chicken, I often select bone-in chicken breasts for faster cooking and ease of preparation. This is my husband's favorite roasted chicken. During the colder months, we make this dinner twice a week. That's the thing about cooking something over and over. You get really good at it. We all need a few favorite recipes in our repertoire, right? On weeknights, I serve the chicken with baked potatoes and a seasonal vegetable. A simple green salad is also a nice sidekick. My grandmother always made her salad dressing with fresh or dried mint, olive oil and lemon juice. The salad lends a welcome tartness against the savory roasted chicken.

I use spices common to Eastern Mediterranean cooking here. This chicken dinner is foolproof and cozy. I've made it dozens of times. It's perfect for fall and winter. If you're having company over then a basket of warm rolls or a fresh baguette and butter on the table makes dinner extra special. Who doesn't love bread with butter? Simple meals make our hearts happy. I'll show you just how easy it is to prepare a winner winner chicken dinner.


My Grandmother's Lebanese-Spiced Chicken Recipe

Serves 2

Some Notes & Tips

I've been roasting chicken for years. I've found that there's no need to baste it. Constantly opening the oven is not ideal. What works is a hot oven and quality, humanely-raised chicken. To make juicy, flavorful and tender roast chicken you must start with the best brand. There is no way around it. I have been purchasing Bell & Evans Brand chicken for a long time. It's my favorite, even surpassing fresh chicken that I've bought at farm markets. Bell and Evans earned Cooks Illustrated's highest recommendation. This is not a sponsored post.    

If you can, prep the chicken a few hours before dinner. You can also prep it the night before you're serving it. Place the chicken in the foil-lined pan and rub with the spice mixture. Don't salt the chicken until you're ready to cook. Put the pan in the fridge uncovered. This ensures crispy skin. As the oven preheats, take the chicken out of the fridge. Salt and pepper the chicken before you put it in the preheated oven.

If you're serving the chicken with baked potatoes then put them in the oven 30 minutes before you bake the chicken. I line a baking tray with foil. Put the washed baking potatoes on the tray. Poke a few holes in the potatoes. I don't bother to wrap them in foil because I like the outside of the potatoes to get a bit crispy. Don't forget the sour cream and chives too.

Petite (or baby) peas are a fuss-free side to this chicken. Keep them bright green by cooking them just before the chicken is done. If I'm having company, I get a little fancy by making my French Peas The French peas are always on my holiday table.

My Easy French Apple Cake is a lovely dessert, especially during the fall when we go apple picking.


Ingredients

  • 2 bone-in split chicken breasts. I use one package of bone-in split chicken breasts halves weighing around 1.75 pounds. Bell & Evans Brand is my favorite
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice or ground coriander   
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked or regular paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste
To Serve: baked potatoes, fresh bread, green salad, French Peas  or seasonal vegetable 

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees

Line a baking pan with foil. Mix the cinnamon, allspice, paprika and garlic powder together. I do this directly in the foil-lined pan. Place the chicken in the pan and coat all sides of the chicken with the spice mixture. Salt and pepper the chicken to taste. Bake for 40 minutes. Let the chicken rest for a few minutes before serving.

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Whole Roasted Chicken Option

Instead of split chicken breast halves, you can also roast a whole chicken rubbed with the spice-blend. A small, 4-pound  Bell & Evans Chicken is deliciously tender and flavorful. It's juiciest one you'll ever eat! The company is not paying me to write this. Preheat the oven to 425. Season the chicken with salt and pepper before you put it in the preheated oven. If you don't have a roasting pan with a rack, just put it in a baking pan lined with foil like I suggest for the split chicken breasts.It'll work out just fine. Roast the whole chicken for one hour and 15 to 20 minutes. Let the chicken rest for 5-10 minutes, before carving. Spoon some of the pan sauce over the carved chicken. A 4-pound chicken will serve two hungry people with leftovers.


Bon Appetite & Blessings!
xx ~ Jilly


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