5 Ingredients or Fewer

Oven Braised Buttermilk Chicken with Za'atar

July 17, 2012
2 Ratings
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

In addition to looking cool Frenching the chicken legs releases the tendons that are sometimes stringy and tough. This allows the legs to become tender and succulent. —thirschfeld

What You'll Need
  • 4 chicken thigh and leg quarters
  • 1 tablespoon za'atar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons garlic, minced
  • salt
  • buttermilk
  • a handful of thyme sprigs
  1. Place a thigh onto a cutting board. Using a sharp sturdy knife place the blade onto the leg bone about 3/4 of an inch from the ankle. What you are looking for is the soft spot. It is a spot where, when pressure is applied with your free hand to the back of the knife, the blade will slip through cartlidge instead of pure hard bone. If you miss and hit bone it is ok it is just harder to cut and sometimes the bone splinters a little.
  2. With the blade resting on the bone grip the knife handle firmly. Place the lines palm of your free hand onto the spine of the knife keeping your hand flat as if you were pushing on the counter itself. In other words you are keeping you fingers well out of the way in case the knife tips. Apply a good amount of pressure and push the knife through the bone. Repeat this with all four thighs.
  3. Place the not yet protruding bone between you forefinger and index finger like you are making the peace sign. Put your thumb on the knee of the chicken and then scrunch the peace sign down pulling the meat with it. It may take some practice to get the feel of this technique but once you do it is easy.
  4. Season the chicken on all sides with salt and sprinkle on the za'atar dividing it evenly between all four pieces. Sprinkle some of the garlic onto the bottom of a snug fitting casserole. If it is snug you will use less buttermilk.
  5. Place the chicken on top of the garlic then top the chicken with the remaining garlic. Pour buttermilk over the top of the chicken until it is three quarters covered. Top with the thyme.
  6. Place the chicken into the fridge for at least 10 but no more then 24 hours.
  7. A half to one hour before baking remove the chicken from the fridge to get it closer to room temperature.
  8. Place the chicken into a heated 375?F oven. and bake for 20 minutes. Turn the oven to 450? F and bake another 15 to 20 minutes making sure the top of the chicken is nice and caramelized.
  9. Remove from the oven and serve using the broth as a sauce and don't let the curdled buttermilk cheesy stuff go to waste either. Serve.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Neta Shpilman
    Neta Shpilman
  • Poires au Chocolat
    Poires au Chocolat
  • Fran McGinty
    Fran McGinty
  • EmilyC
  • Oui, Chef
    Oui, Chef

19 Reviews

Mary A. July 28, 2020
This was just ok- probably not worth making again.
Neta S. July 30, 2016
I skipped the "frenching" part and made ity with the store bough chicken parts. It came out wonderful.
Gotowanie G. March 25, 2014
This turned out great for me. Quick and easy meal that my husband loved. Thanks for sharing!
Poires A. February 1, 2014
This looks really delicious. What do you usually serve it with?
Poires A. February 1, 2014
I just had this for supper - it was wonderful. The supermarket had run out of thighs so I used breasts. I served it with mashed potato & buttery carrots.
Fran M. November 14, 2013
There seems to be many recipes for Za'atar some with oregano some with out some with thyme. Do you have a recipe that you use or do you just buy pre-made?
EmilyC June 24, 2013
This is such a fantastic, easy I made it tonight and we loved it. I only had time to marinate for about 3 hours but it was still great.
EmilyC June 24, 2013
Sorry, I meant to say fantastic, easy recipe! LOVE the streamlined approach of marinating in the casserole dish. Thanks for a great dish.
Ceege March 18, 2013
Oh boy. I saved this recipe, hoping to try it soon. However I have several questions. First of all, what exactly is za'atar. Now, could I possible just use chicken thighs and legs or perhaps even the boneless type as I do not understand the directions for cutting the chicken pieces. Thanks for any help.
Dima H. July 2, 2013
Well Zaatar is a Middle Eastern Spice mix, Zaatar in Arabic means thyme, however when we say Zaatar in Arabic we mean the mix of (Thyme, Sumac, and Sesame seeds) it is found in all Arabic homes and we eat it with olive oil and bread as a breakfast item, if you have a middle eastern shop near you they probably will have Zaatar mix, or you can substitute it with just thyme. I recently wrote a post on my blog about Zaatar pizza http://procrastinatorcook.wordpress.com/2013/06/17/manaeish-middle-eastern-pizza/(should you have any leftover zaatar you can make this pizza, eaten typically for breakfast).
Kevin M. November 23, 2016
You can get most spices and blends on line. Here is my favorite www.spicehorizon.com
Oui, C. March 3, 2013
Oh my....how did I miss this one the first time around? Never mind, I am making it NOW!
MaryDD March 1, 2013
In case anyone needs further instruction on the frenching(like me!) I found that this video illustrates pretty much word for word what the instructions outline above. http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=PEJSHRSJCn8&feature=endscreen
EatsMeetsWest March 3, 2013
Since you can't totally see the chicken in this video, this video gives a really great view and tips on how to debone and french a chicken thigh: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDgIjAqeVYQ&list=PLmPX1JzE3e-4db5sSmbAbhH3OuthKHsL2&index=3
nancye October 24, 2012
what is in the spice of Za'atar?
Dima H. July 2, 2013
Thyme, Sumac, salt and Sesame seeds, you can buy it from Middle Eastern stores or big stores with lots of ethnic food. you can always substitute it with thyme if you don't have zaatar on hand.
MoroccanHomeCook September 16, 2012
it sounds like a great idea and a great dish. I've tried and lived baking chicken thighs in milk, lemon zest and rosemary, but I never used buttermilk that way. Thanks, I'll be trying your recipe this week and ca already sense that I'm gonna love it.
Ascender September 13, 2012
Love the idea of marinating and cooking the chicken in well seasoned buttermilk.

I googled images for a french cut chicken drumstick. It appears that you remove all the cartilage from the end of the bone, then pull the meat and skin back to make the drumstick plump and round rather than long and slender. Going to try it next time I see whole chicken legs. Seems like a great trick to keep the drumstick from overcooking before the thigh cooks through.
Madame S. July 25, 2012
I am having a hard time understanding how to French via words. Any chance we can get a video posted? I am much more a visual person. thanks!