Some dishes just never grow old. And some are brand new!
I’ve been making this Lebanese spiced chicken dish for over 20 years. I still remember making this for a dinner party we threw, when we moved out west to Calgary and had made new friends. I made zucchini fritters, a carrot salad and basmati rice to go with it. Funny how some meals totally stay with you. I can still picture the table in our little apartment, and how I set it. I remember the aromas coming from the oven as this chicken roasted away. And I remember the good friends that we shared that meal with. Even though we have been back in Toronto for 20 years now, we still keep in touch, and it feels like just last month that we were all around a table together.
Flash forward to a few years ago. A dear friend gave me a jar labelled ‘Lebanese Spice blend’. I didn’t think about it too much about it other than I knew I liked it. So I would add it to sautéeing onions being prepared for soups, I would sprinkle it into stews, on potatoes or rice, or even onto roasting carrots and other veggies. But then I finally got around to asking her what was actually in the blend. She described a blend of paprika, ground cumin, and cayenne pepper. Pretty basic. And yet together they work wonderfully to add an earthy and deep kick to dishes. Then one day, I pulled out the recipe for this chicken, and realized that along with some thyme and garlic, the spices were exactly the same. No wonder I like it so much! Add those spices to bright lemon juice and garlic, and this chicken is just, Wow! And when it bakes up, it creates the most amazing mahogany hued skin!
Just like 20 years back, I serve carrots with this chicken. But instead of an African carrot salad, I make a Harissa Tunisian Roasted Carrot dish. The flavours are similar, but instead of cutting the carrots into small rounds, I like to use smaller carrots and leave them whole. After roasting in a blend of olive oil and grated garlic, they get dressed in lemon juice, harissa, caraway seeds, cumin and paprika. Bright and kicky at the same time. Seeing a trend yet? And this dish can be served warm or at room temperature.
But what is the something new that I referred to at the beginning of this post? A few weeks back a friend who volunteers with me, asked if I knew how to make a Lebanese cabbage salad. I had never even heard of one. I could imagine what might go into it. So I told her that she had totally intrigued me, and that I would have to go home and do some research.
After scouring loads of sites and comparing recipes, I also googled traditional Lebanese cuisines. You see, a lot of blogs and cooks these days like to take traditional recipes and embellish them, or bring them into the 21st century. Which is fine, I do the same thing. Unless you are actually looking for the original way the recipe started out. But eventually I found it. Talk about simple! It is a blend of shredded cabbage, lemon, olive oil, salt and dried mint. I could practically taste it as I researched it!
I decided that I would honour these original versions, by not adding tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, scallions, parsley etc that several recipes call for. I would stick with the original ingredients. The only change I did make was to use fresh mint instead of dried. I have so much fresh mint on the balcony, that it just seemed wrong not to use it. The great thing about this cole slaw is what is great about most cole slaws. You can make it in advance and let the flavours meld and mellow together. So this can be made at the beginning of dinner prep, and it will be ready when you are ready to serve everything, a few hours later. And leftovers tasted great the next day! And it’s a great way to get cabbage into your salad routine. You don’t need any fancy cabbage- just use a plain, white common cabbage, and you will make some Lebanese grandma very proud!
I also noticed after the fact, that there was a definite lemon trend happening here. Shock of shocks! 🙂 Lemon really is the all-round most versatile fruit and flavour. It tenderized the chicken, it became the perfect accent for the carrots, and it was the base for a brilliant cole slaw.
So, we had a dinner party again yesterday evening. In Toronto instead of Calgary this time. And I made this Lebanese Chicken, the Tunisian Carrots, and the Malfouf Salad. There were also some smashed potatoes present on the table. But it was the chicken and the carrots that got the most rave reviews! So juicy, and perfectly spiced. The carrots have a fabulous flavour profile as well. The cole slaw held it’s own- everyone took seconds, and the smashed potatoes were inhaled.
What’s great about all of these dishes, is that they are just as good for weekday meals, as they are for company. The only disclaimer: the chicken does the best when it is left to marinate for a good 6 hours to overnight. So you do have to plan ahead if you want to serve this, say on a Thursday. But everything else comes together lickety split.
I’m so glad I was asked to investigate Lebanese cabbage salads. Now I have a new cole slaw that will be made regularly over here. In fact, you can shred the cabbage and store it in a container, make the dressing and keep it in the fridge as well, and then throw it together at the last minute.
Have a great last few days of August 2018 everyone!
Lebanese Spiced Chicken with Malfouf Salad
Spicy, juicy roasted chicken is served with a traditional Lebanese cabbage salad, or Malfouf. Citrus reigns supreme, along with the kick of garlic, paprika, cumin and cayenne. And fresh mint is my twist for the salad. Enjoy!
- 8 chicken legs drumsticks and thighs can be substituted, with skin and bones
- 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 8 large garlic cloves minced
- 2 tbsp fresh thyme minced
- 1 tbsp sweet smoked paprika
- 1 1/2- 2 tsp cayenne pepper to taste
- kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
- lemon wedges fresh thyme sprigs or parsley for garnish
- 1 small white cabbage the common plain cabbage
- 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cracked black pepper
- 3 tbsp freshly chopped mint
Pat dry the chicken and place in a large baking dish
In a small bowl whisk together the lemon juice, the garlic, thyme, paprika and cayenne pepper.
Pour the marinade over the chicken and use your fingers to make sure every nook and cranny is covered in the marinade. Cover and refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight. You can turn the chicken occasionally to get it all evenly soaked in the marinade.
Preheat the oven to 425F.
Transfer the chicken and the marinade to a large roasting pan if the one you've been marinating the chicken in can't handle the oven.
Make sure the skin side is up in all cases. Sprinkle well with salt and pepper.
Bake until the chicken is golden brown to mahogany, and cooked through, about 50-60 minutes. Use the juices to baste the chicken pieces occasionally.
If you find the skin getting to brown, loosely cover with some tin foil.
Transfer to a serving platter and let it rest for 5 minutes. Scatter some more salt over everything.
You can garnish with lemon wedges, thyme sprigs or chopped parsley.
Finely shred the cabbage till you have about 6-7 cups. Place in a large bowl.
In a small bowl or jar, blend the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust to your liking.
About 15 minutes before serving, pour 2 tbsp of the dressing over the cabbage and toss to coat well. Let the cabbage soak up the dressing to help soften it a bit. Depending on how much cabbage you actually shredded, you may need to use the remaining dressing.
Just before serving, take the mint and toss well throughout the cabbage.
You can shred and store the cabbage till needed. The same with the dressing.
Original Lebanese Chicken recipe from 1996 Bon Appétit magazine.