Chicken in bread with onions and sumac مسخن

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I was driving around Dallas and stumbled on a tiny bakery with the name Phoenicia Bakery. I immediately got out of the car to investigate and met a sweet lady inside who told me she was from West Bekaa, in Lebanon; she and her husband are making traditional Lebanese bread like this markook that is used for the mussakhan. Also called lavash bread, it is paper-thin and very large. In Lebanon, it is prepared by hand by women, crouching and using a pillow to rest the bread on before it is thrown inside the wall cavity of a stone oven. Very dramatic to watch, fascinating. I don’t know how Fadia and her husband are making it here in Dallas, but the result is delicious and very authentic. If you are not fortunate enough to access some markook, you can substitute pita or even phyllo dough that is sold in all the supermarkets now.

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INGREDIENTS:

1 chicken weight about 3 lbs, skinned and deboned OR 2 lbs of boneless chicken thighs

1 1/2 lbs of yellow onions, sliced in thin rings or chopped coarsely

2 heaping tablespoons of sumak

salt, pepper, to taste

2 teaspoons of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of allspice (optional)

2 cups of homemade chicken stock (preferably)

3 pieces of markook bread, or 2 large pita breads or 6 sheets of phyllo dough, defrosted overnight in the refrigerator

1/2 cup of light olive oil

METHOD:

  • Sprinkle the sumak on the onions
  • If you are using a whole chicken: debone the chicken and throw all the bones, wings, etc in a pot. Brown them in a tablespoon of oil all over , then add 4 cups of water, some flavoring (whatever you have on hand, onion, bay leaf, sprig of parsley, clove of garlic, whole peppercorns) and let it simmer for a couple of hours until the broth is fragrant and thickened and reduced to about 2 cups.
  • With the remaining chicken, sprinkle spices on it (salt, pepper, cinnamon, allspice) and brown it in 1/4 cup of oil till golden. Cook it only halfway, in order to  finish cooking it later in the bread. Cut the bird in bite size pieces.
  • If you are using boneless thighs, cut them in small bitesize pieces and brown them briefly in a couple tablespoons of oil till golden but not cooked through.
  • Remove the chicken from the frying pan, set it aside in a bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of oil to the frying pan and throw in the onions (minus the onion juice). Fry till the onion is translucent, about 8 minutes.
  • Spread 2 pieces of  bread in a greased flat pan. Brush the chicken broth (not defatted) on the bread lightly. Spoon half the onion mixture on the bread and then put the chicken pieces on top of the onion. Place the remaining half of the onions on top of the chicken. Enclose the chicken and onions by folding the bread, brushing it as you proceed with more chicken broth all over to keep it moist and malleable.
  • Take one pice of bread and cover the chicken with it and fold the rest underneath using a spatula to help you in that operation, continuing to moisten the bread with the chicken broth.

Place in a moderate oven (about 350F) for about 30 to 45 minutes. If the bread starts to burn, cover it with a piece of foil.

NOTE:

If you are unable to find markook, then you can use phyllo dough. Defrost it in the refrigerator and use about 6 leaves, brushing them with melted butter or a pray, so that they get some flavor. Or, use a couple large pitas, brushing them as well with butter or the fatty chicken broth. Freeze the remaining broth.

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9 Comments

  1. Posted April 21, 2009 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    You have no idea how valuable these recipes are to me–I’ve yet to find good ones, with pictures, anywhere! SHUKRAN!!

  2. Joumana
    Posted April 22, 2009 at 12:08 am | Permalink

    Thanks so much Yvonne. You made my day!

  3. Posted April 22, 2009 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    What a coincidence! Last Thursday I made Mussakhan and I used homemade pita bread, it was so delicious!
    Yours look great and delicious!
    Thanks for visiting my blog!

  4. Joumana
    Posted April 22, 2009 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    I love your blog. I am fascinated with Syria and hope I can explore it some day!

  5. Sandra
    Posted July 8, 2009 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Musakhan is not a bedouin dish, it is a Palestinian dish originating in the Jenin area (there are no bedouins there). It is mansaf that is a bedouin dish. Oh and nawar translates as gypsies, not bedouins. The bedouins in Palestine are a seperate ethnic group (not referred to as the mainstream Palestinians), there are about 200 000 bedouins in Palestine. Bedouins exist all over the arab world (The Levant/The Gulf/North Africa). Just thought id give you some info :) Ps. Musakhan is a great dish, i love Palestinian and Middle eastern food.

  6. Joumana
    Posted July 11, 2009 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    You are absolutely right! I would love to know more about the bedouins, as I have only encountered them (or were they nawar? gypsies?) in the mountains at the high altitude near the bekaa valley. Thanks so much for the clarification!

  7. Iman
    Posted December 8, 2009 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Sandra. You’re absolutely right ;) . Joumana I like your blog. Lots of good dishes. I like your presentation too.

  8. Lainey
    Posted May 18, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    I go a Turkish restaurant in Winter Park, Florida called Bosphorous. They serve a lavash appetizer, but when they serve theirs, it comes out as a huge puffed dome! When you dig in it deflates. The top half is soft and bready while the bottom is like a thin cracker. I’ve been trying to find a recipe that duplicates this, but most lavash recipes say it comes out as thin and crispy. What does your recipe more resemble? And have you ever had a lavash as I described the one I’ve had?

  9. Joumana
    Posted May 18, 2012 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    @Lainey: I have not had that one, but my guess is that their oven is set at a very high temperature, like the pizza ovens. Do they stuff it with chicken? or is it just a bread?

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