When I moved to Kuwait a couple of years ago (where my husband was working) I was amazed by the variety of spices available to me, yet none fascinated me so much as sumac. Just the tart fragrance wafting from the trays in the stores made my mouth water, yet I had no idea what to do with it. I found a recipe for the Palestinian dish, musakhan, and after 2 years discovered I had made enough tweaks and adjustments to make it fully my own. I love serving this at dinner parties in the States because it introduces a new flavor to my guests, but one that isn't too exotic to scare them away. Plus it's pretty easy to make and the simple list of ingredients allows the sumac to shine. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do! —CookingTheGlobe
chicken, cut into 8 pieces and skin removed (I have also used 4 leg/thigh quarters to great satisfaction)
lemon, cut in half
medium white onions, sliced into 1/4" thick rings
large pita, pulled apart and torn into large pieces
Rub chicken pieces with one half of lemon, squeezing the fruit to get all the juice onto the meat. Season with salt and pepper and set aside while slicing onions.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in deep pan or Dutch oven and brown chicken on both sides. Remove meat from pan and set aside. Preheat oven to 375F.
In same pan heat additional 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-low and add onion rings. Cook slowly until onions release their sugar and caramelize, 20-25 minutes. Add 4 tablespoons sumac and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook for 2-3 minutes, until sumac is incorporated. Remove from heat.
Arrange the dish: in a 9x13in baking pan place a layer of pita pieces on the bottom. This doesn't have to be perfect, just be sure there are no large gaps. Spread 2/3 of the onions over the pita pieces (again, perfection is not the key, just an even layer of onions) then arrange chicken pieces on top of onions. Sprinkle chicken with remaining 2 tablespoons sumac and juice from 2nd half of lemon, then top with remaining onions. Top chicken and onions with pita pieces, again ensuring there are no large gaps, just a single layer of pita. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil over casserole and pour chicken stock around the edges.
Bake for 30 minutes, then loosely cover with foil and bake an additional 15 minutes. If the pita top begins to burn before the initial 30 minutes has elapsed, sprinkle with water and cover for remainder of baking time. The goal is to have crisp, chip-like pita pieces on top, but definitely not burnt!
Allow dish to rest for several minutes after removing from oven, then serve. Be sure each diner gets a piece of chicken; plenty of tangy onions; a bit of the moist,stuffing-like pita bottom; and a couple of pita chips from the top to scoop it all into your mouth. Enjoy!