Chicken with Caramelized Sumac Onions, Preserved Lemon, and Israeli Couscous

By • January 12, 2014 27 Comments

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Author Notes: I recently became inspired while flipping through the Ottolenghi cookbook, Jerusalem. I wanted a hearty chicken dish for dinner and, though none of Yotam's recipes sounded perfect, his Roast Chicken with Sumac, Za'atar, and Lemon served as a marvelous foundation for this one-pot stew. It's fairly quick, can be made ahead, makes great leftovers, and just bursts with flavor!em-i-lis

Food52 Review: This is a simple-to-assemble one-pot chicken dish that fills the kitchen with a warming aroma. It would be a perfect meal to prepare for company, as you can put together a hearty green salad while it braises in the oven. The flavors are bright, unexpected, and fragrant, with a refreshing burst of preserved lemon. The couscous cooks to a creamy yet slightly chewy texture that serves as the perfect foil for the braised chicken. The recipe works beautifully and is easy to follow. I would add that any visible chicken fat be removed prior to browning, as I ended up with much more fat than needed to caramelize the onions and the dish was still quite rich.Sandra Gray

Serves 4 to 6

  • 2 1/2 to 3 pounds chicken (I like a combination of skin-on, bone-in breasts and boneless, skinless thighs)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste
  • 2 teaspoons grapeseed oil (or another high-heat oil)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium to large yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled then mashed or pressed
  • 3 teaspoons sumac
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons allspice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped preserved lemon
  • 1 cup pearled (Israeli) couscous
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth, plus more as needed
  1. Sprinkle the chicken with the 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Set a Dutch oven or braisier over medium-high heat, pour in the grapeseed oil, and when hot, brown the chicken pieces really well. Then, remove and set them aside but don’t rinse out the pan.
  2. Reduce the burner to medium and let the pot cool down for a couple minutes. Then add the olive oil to the pot, along with the onions, garlic, and an additional 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Caramelize the onions, stirring occasionally and adding some of the chicken broth if the pan gets dry. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
  3. While the onions are cooking, combine the sumac with the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, cinnamon, and allspice. When the onions have caramelized, sprinkle three-quarters of the spice mixture over them and stir well to combine. Add the chopped preserved lemon and stir to combine. Sprinkle rest of spice mixture over the reserved chicken and then nestle the pieces into the onions. Make a well in the center of the chicken-onion pile and pour in the uncooked Israeli couscous. Add the chicken broth, cover the pot tightly, and cook in the oven for 20 minutes. Uncover and cook an additional five minutes. Taste and season with more salt if need be. Serve warm.
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Comments (27) Questions (1)

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about 1 month ago Brianna Miller

Do you think quinoa would be an acceptable substitute for couscous? (Totally know nothing about cooking- going with what's in my pantry :p)

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about 1 month ago em-i-lis

Emily is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Hi Brianna, I don't think quinoa is the best option but I like your spirit of going with what you have. If you use quinoa, I'd cook it separately and then add to the stew. Thanks so much!!

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2 months ago mpeterse29

I recently made this dish and - wow! Really good! I used finely chopped pickled lemons instead of "preserved" and added about a tablespoon of brown sugar, plus used closer to 2 c. of chicken broth. As advertised, a pretty easy dish to put together. Since the jar of pickled lemons is huge, we'll definitely have this again, multiple times. Not a bad idea!

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2 months ago em-i-lis

Emily is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Sounds fantastic! Thanks for letting me know!! :)

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2 months ago Marcy

Made this dish tonight-- it was fantastic! I used rice instead of couscous because we're gf. Everyone loved it including my 7 year old who cleaned her plate :)

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2 months ago em-i-lis

Emily is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Wonderful, Marcy! I'm so thrilled to hear it was a hit, even with the younger set. :) Thank you!

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2 months ago Twinsx2mom

I don't like preserved lemons---any substitutes?

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2 months ago em-i-lis

Emily is a trusted source on General Cooking.

how do you feel about fresh lemons? they won't lend the same sort of earthy depth but will still be lovely and bright. lemons and sumac are such nice friends!

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2 months ago Twinsx2mom

Thanks so much! I thought fresh lemon would be ok, just needed confirmation.

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2 months ago moseceltic

Hello em-i-lis!
Thanks for the quick update! Great and simple idea!
Mo

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2 months ago em-i-lis

Emily is a trusted source on General Cooking.

You bet, Mo!! Enjoy!

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2 months ago moseceltic

Not sure who would have preserved lemon in their larder to add at a moment's notice! Any ideas for a quick substitution?

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2 months ago em-i-lis

Emily is a trusted source on General Cooking.

I love this quick version: http://www.em-i-lis.com...

So easy- all you need are lemons, lemon juice, kosher salt and a skillet! What you don't use lasts well in the fridge!

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2 months ago Phillie Filly

Em,
I am so proud of you! You are a great cook and I cannot wait to try this recipe!
xo,
Sue

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2 months ago em-i-lis

Emily is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Oh, thank you, Sue! What a sweet note. I'm so appreciative!! Enjoy!!
xo

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2 months ago robin lewis

Ditto Mel's question below: veg (or salad) recommended?

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2 months ago Mel

One pot -- where's the veg? Any recommended veg sides that work well with this not quite balanced meal? Looks yummy.

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2 months ago em-i-lis

Emily is a trusted source on General Cooking.

A green salad is great with this as is roasted asparagus with lemon!

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2 months ago Hemz7781

I'm not a huge fan of Israeli couscous - any thoughts on how I might sub in whole grain couscous or quinoa?

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2 months ago Hemz7781

I think I meant whole wheat couscous

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2 months ago em-i-lis

Emily is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Hi! While wheat couscous would be great- just add it about five minutes before the end of the total cook time as it takes much less time to cook than pearled couscous. I imagine quinoa would work well too- just adjust the cook time accordingly, or cook separately!

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over 1 year ago Leslie David

The "more" link under Author Notes doesn't work.

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over 1 year ago em-i-lis

Emily is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Hmm...it's working for me. Did you try switching browsers?

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over 1 year ago Alexandra V. Jones

Wow this looks great! Gotta try it asap! Thanks for the great review for my couscous recipe! Congrats!

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over 1 year ago em-i-lis

Emily is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Thank you so much, Alexandra!! Hope you like it! Congrats to you too!

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over 1 year ago healthierkitchen

ooh this sounds good, and I'm always eager to use my preserved lemons!

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over 1 year ago em-i-lis

Emily is a trusted source on General Cooking.

thanks, wendy! do you make your own preserved lems? awesome!! can't wait to try your pate! so happy for your win! :)