This classic Middle Eastern za’atar recipe is a one pot meal. But what exactly is za’atar seasoning? And what goes in it? Well, the word za’atar (pronounced “zah-tahr”) literally translates to mean “wild thyme” in Arabic. But it’s better known as a seasoning blend, whose ingredients vary slightly from country to country across the Middle East.
Most home chefs won’t necessarily have za’atar seasoning on hand, nor did we, so The Hubs found a version on “Gimme Some Oven” website—now isn’t that a clever name! The three main ingredients are thyme, sesame seeds and sumac. It’s very versatile and can be used on anything from meat, fish, veggies, dips, salads, soups or even popcorn!
What’s nice about this dish if you have diners in your household who have different preferences regarding both white and dark meat, like us, it’s interchangeable. Even though the original recipe calls for only dark meat, we used a combination of 4 thighs, and 2 breast halves that were chopped into two pieces each (producing 8 pieces total, 2 more than the recipe calls for).
We only used 2 tablespoons of the za’atar seasoning to sprinkle on the chicken, which was more than plenty. The remaining one tablespoon was added to the pot after the onion and carrots were cooked down.
A little trick we learned when braising both white and dark meat, is to set the white meat on top of the thighs for a majority of the cooking time. This helps ensure the breast pieces will not overdone and rubbery. Then nestle them into the liquid for the last 15 minutes or so.
1 cup pitted green olives, such as Castelvetrano, whole or halved
Fresh thyme sprigs
Preheat oven to 325°F. Season chicken with za’atar. In a deep oven-going skillet or 5-quart Dutch oven heat oil over medium-high. Add chicken; cook 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until brown. Transfer to a plate. Don’t crowd the pot, you may have to do this in two batches.
Reduce heat to medium. Add onion and carrots to pot. Cook 4 to 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Stir in garlic; cook 1 minute.
Stir in broth, lentils, and tomato paste. Return chicken and juices to pot. Bring to a simmer. Cover; braise in oven 45 to 55 minutes or until chicken is fork-tender (at least 175°F).
Transfer chicken to a platter; keep warm. Strain remaining mixture, reserving liquid.
Add lentils and vegetables to chicken on platter; cover.
Return liquid to pot. Boil over medium-high 10 to15 minutes or until reduced by half. Pour liquid over chicken and lentils.
Milk Street, where this recipe hails from, explains that Jerusalem mixed grill is a popular Israeli street food, one that is said to originate in Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market. The term “mixed” refers to the sundry ingredients that go into the dish—chicken meat, hearts, spleen and liver, along with bits of lamb, plus onions and spices. Now don’t get all squeamish over the innards because…
…To re-create a simplified mixed grill at home, Milk Street (MS) borrowed from chef Daniel Alt’s version at The Barbary and Omri Mcnabb’s take on it at The Palomar, two London restaurants that serve up modern Levantine and Middle Eastern cuisine. MS then limited the meat to boneless, skinless chicken thighs and seasoned them assertively with select spices. You can now let out a collective sigh.
In place of a grill, a nonstick skillet on the stovetop is used. Amba, a pickled mango condiment, is commonly served with mixed grill to offset the richness of the meat. Here however, quick-pickle sliced red onion offers a similar acidity and brightness. Nutty, creamy tahini sauce is non-negotiable, and a necessary requirement for the full experience. Serve the chicken with warmed pita.
Be mindful NOT to stir the chicken-onion mixture too often while cooking; doing so disrupts browning. Intermittent stirring—no more than every 2 to 3 minutes—allows the chicken to develop nice, deep, flavor-building char.
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into 1½-inch chunks
Multi-grain pita pickets, warmed in oven wrapped in tinfoil, (optional)
In a small bowl, stir together the vinegar, sugar and ¼ teaspoon salt until the sugar and salt dissolve. Stir in 1 cup of sliced onion; set aside. In another small bowl, mix together the tahini and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, then whisk in 6 tablespoons water. Season to taste with salt and pepper; set aside.
In a medium bowl, stir together 2 tablespoons of oil, the coriander, allspice, turmeric, cinnamon and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Add the chicken and the remaining sliced onion, then stir until evenly coated.
In a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil until barely smoking. Add the chicken mixture in an even layer and cook, uncovered and stirring only every 2 to 3 minutes, until the chicken is well browned all over and no longer is pink when cut into, 10 to 12 minutes.
Off heat, stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice, then taste and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving dish, drizzle lightly with some of the tahini sauce and top with the pickled onion. Serve the remaining tahini sauce on the side.
Absolutely delicious, this Sopa de Lima is a classic Mexican soup from the Yucatán Peninsula. Brothy, spicy and usually chicken-based, the juice of limas counts as a key ingredient, or Mexican bittersweet limes, a variety of citrus that is difficult to find here in the U.S.
So in a clever twist to approximate the flavor of limas, Milk Street used a combination of freshly squeezed grapefruit juice and standard lime juice. They tell us the credit for this substitution goes to J. Kenji López-Alt of Serious Eats. To keep the flavors clear and bright, add the citrus juices at the very end after cooking is complete. Warm spices add complex flavor and aroma to this version using cinnamon, allspice and cumin, along with dried oregano.
Simmering bone-in chicken thighs in store-bought chicken broth yields a deeply flavorful base for the soup, however, we included our homemade chicken stock which amped up that flavor base even more! But before simmering, you need only to brown the skin side of half of the chicken thighs; which will develop enough caramelization to build depth of flavor but spares the time and mess of browning both sides of all 3 pounds of thighs.
Once the requisite amount of chicken thighs were browned, we chopped them in half. This multi-pronged approach released the marrow from the bones, plus quickened the heating process once in the pot, then the cooling down process just before shredding the meat.
Sopa de lima is garnished with strips of fried corn tortillas that, when lightly soaked with broth, take on an appealing chewy-crunchy quality that adds textural appeal to the soup. For simplicity, however, we used tortilla chips.
NOTE: It is highly suggested that you don’t use grapefruit juice that’s not freshly squeezed. Pasteurized juice or juice from concentrate lacks the peppiness that the soup requires. (Although since we had some already on hand and opened, we did use it.) Any variety of grapefruit—pink, red or white—works well. You will likely need 1½ grapefruits to get ¾ cup juice.
2 Tbsp. grapeseed or other neutral oil
3 lbs. bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, trimmed and patted dry
In a large Dutch oven over medium-high, heat the oil until barely smoking. Add half the chicken, skin side down, and cook without disturbing until well browned on the bottom, 8 to 10 minutes, then transfer to a plate. Pour off and discard all but 2 tablespoons fat from the pot.
Chop both the browned and and raw chicken thighs in half, set aside.
Return the pot to medium-high, add the onions and ½ teaspoon salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, jalapeño, oregano, cumin, allspice, cinnamon and cilantro stems. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Stir in the tomatoes with juices, then the broth. Bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits. Add the raw chicken and the browned chicken, along with any accumulated juices, then bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce to low and cook, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a simmer, until a skewer inserted into the chicken meets no resistance, about 45 minutes.
Remove the pot from the heat. Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a large plate and set aside. When cool enough to handle, use 2 forks or your hands to shred the chicken into bite-size pieces; discard the skin and bones. Add the shredded meat to the pot and bring the soup to a simmer over medium, stirring occasionally.
Off heat, stir in the grapefruit and lime juices, then taste and season with salt, pepper and additional lime juice (if desired). Ladle into bowls and top with tortilla chips and cilantro leaves.
This dish may sound French, but the starting point for Milk Street was the Portuguese classic called frango na púcara, or chicken in a clay pot. For quick and easy weeknight cooking, boneless, skinless chicken thighs are used instead of bone-in parts. All gets cooked in one Dutch oven on the stovetop—always a plus when it comes to clean up.
Because our chicken thighs were of two different thicknesses, I had to remove the two smaller pieces to a platter, cover with foil, and let the thicker thighs cook a few minutes longer. And yes, you may have noticed from the ingredients photo below, I did increase the amount of garlic cloves.
Cherry tomatoes can be used in place of grape tomatoes, but they tend to be larger, so cut them in half before adding them to the pot. We used the variety pack of tomatoes that contained four different colors, adding to the overall color palette. Serve with warm, crusty bread, roasted potatoes, rice, or as in our case, farro.
Speaking of farro, the kind that’s most commonly found in the US and Europe is emmer wheat. It’s sold dry and prepared by cooking it in water until it’s soft and chewy. Before it’s cooked it looks similar to wheat berries, but afterward it looks similar to barley. It’s a small, light-brown grain with a noticeable outer layer of bran. Farro is loved for its nutty flavor and unique, chewy texture. It’s a great alternative to other popular grains, such as rice, quinoa, buckwheat and barley, among others.
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and patted dry
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
6 medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
2 tsp. smoked paprika
2 Tbsp. dijon mustard
⅓ cup brandy
1 pint grape tomatoes
½ cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Season the chicken with salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven over medium-high, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion and garlic, then cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the paprika and cook, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the mustard and brandy, then cook, scraping up any browned bits, until slightly reduced, about 30 seconds.
Stir in the tomatoes and broth, then nestle the chicken in the liquid. Bring to a simmer, reduce to medium-low, cover and cook for 10 minutes.
Using tongs, flip the chicken and simmer, uncovered, until a skewer inserted into the chicken meets no resistance, another 5 to 8 minutes.
Transfer the chicken to a serving dish and tent with foil. Bring the braising liquid to a simmer over medium-high and cook, stirring often, until thickened and the tomatoes have softened, 5 to 8 minutes.
Taste and season with salt and pepper. Spoon the mixture over the chicken and sprinkle with the parsley.
Sweet-tart white balsamic vinegar and tangy Peppadew peppers bring flavor and color to this weeknight chicken dish found on Milk Street. White balsamic, which is not cooked and aged as long as regular balsamic vinegar, has a mellow acidity that complements the peppadews, a variety of small, sweet peppers from South Africa.
Peppadews add slight heat and additional sweetness, as well as a vivid splash of red. Find them (or not) jarred at most grocery stores, and sometimes loose at the olive bar. Unable to locate peppadews, we substituted cherry peppers. And for some odd reason, there were no plain pitted green olives (no open olive bar during COVID) and all the jarred versions were pimento stuffed. Frustrating yes, but in the end… FRIGGIIN’ delicious!!
Packed with Flavor
Don’t rush rendering the fat from the skin on the chicken thighs. The skin should be golden brown and feel crisp. When reducing the sauce before serving, add water if the liquid is less than 1 cup. It took us extra time to get the sauce reduced to one cup, more like 6 minutes,
The sauce was just bursting with flavor and the chicken retained crispy exteriors and juicy interiors. Some serving suggestions are with roasted sweet potatoes—our choice—boiled baby red potatoes or spinach pasta tossed with butter and poppy seeds.
3 lbs. bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, trimmed and patted dry
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. grapeseed or other neutral oil
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 medium shallot, minced (about ⅓ cup)
¾ cup white balsamic vinegar
¾ cup low-sodium chicken broth
⅓ cup pitted green olives, chopped
4 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh tarragon, divided
⅓ drained peppadew peppers, chopped
Heat the oven to 450°F with a rack in the middle position. Season the chicken on all sides with salt and pepper.
In a 12-inch oven-safe skillet over medium-high, heat the oil until smoking. Add the chicken, skin down, and cook until fat is rendered and the skin is golden brown, about 5 minutes. (You will probably have to do this in two stages as you don’t want to crowd the pan and steam instead of crisp the skin.)
Transfer the chicken skin up to a plate. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the skillet. Stir in the garlic and shallot and cook over medium, stirring occasionally, until light golden brown, about 1 minute.
Add the vinegar and broth and bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits. Return the chicken to the skillet, skin up. Transfer to the oven and bake until the chicken reaches 175°F at the thickest part, or a skewer inserted into the thickest part meets no resistance, 12 to 15 minutes.
Transfer the chicken, skin up, to a deep platter and return the skillet to the stovetop (handle will be hot) over medium-high. Bring the sauce to a boil and cook until reduced to about 1 cup, 2 to 3 minutes (or longer if necessary).
Stir in the olives, then taste and season with salt and pepper. Off heat, stir in half the tarragon, then spoon the sauce around the chicken.
Anytime is perfect to skewer around, don’t you agree? And when all it takes is a bit of prep and less than 30 minutes to cook, you will have plenty of extra time for anything else on your agenda, or just relax and enjoy a cool beverage.
Once again chicken is the star of the show. Specifically, boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Each one is cut crosswise into three strips and added to the marinade, tossed and set aside for 15 to 30 minutes. While they get happy, you can prepare whatever accompaniments you plan to serve. A prepackaged couscous and a zucchini-onion sauté completed our meal.
Grilled lemon halves, drizzled with honey and squeezed over the charred chicken skewers, adds a final note of sweet-tart acidity that helps balance all the bold, savory seasonings. Minced fresh cilantro, parsley or mint brings bright color and a herbal freshness to the dish. Use whichever you prefer, or any combination of the three.
The directions indicate to use metal skewers, but we were on vacation at a rental property in Cape Cod and all we had access to was wooden skewers, which we presoaked for an hour. They tend to run shorter in length than their metal counterparts, so it’s likely you’ll need more of them—in our case, 6 wooden skewers as opposed to 4 metal.
Keep in mind: Don’t marinate the chicken longer than 30 minutes. Any longer than that and the lemon juice and ginger will make it mushy.
¼ cup minced fresh cilantro, flat-leaf parsley or mint
With a wand-style grater, use 1 lemon to grate 1 tablespoon of zest and squeeze 2 tablespoons of juice.
In a large bowl, stir together the zest, juice, oil, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons of the honey.
Cut each chicken thigh crosswise into 3 strips. Add the chicken to the marinade, toss and set aside for 15 to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare a grill for direct cooking over medium-high heat. For a charcoal grill, spread a large chimney three-quarters full of hot coals evenly over the grill bed; open the bottom grill vents. For a gas grill, set all burners to high. Heat the grill, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes, then clean and oil the cooking grate. If using gas, reduce the burners to medium-high just before adding the chicken.
Thread the chicken onto four 12-inch metal skewers, scrunching multiple pieces onto each skewer. (We used 6, presoaked wooden skewers.)
Cut the remaining 2 lemons in half. Grill the chicken and lemon halves (cut side down) until the chicken is well charred all over, 10 to 12 minutes, turning halfway through. Remove the lemons once their cut sides are nicely charred.
Transfer the skewers and lemon halves to a platter. Drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon of honey over the cut sides of the lemons.
Squeeze the juice from 1 lemon half over the chicken, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with cilantro. Serve with the remaining lemon halves on the side.