Make Ahead

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

January 12, 2014
Photo by James Ransom
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

Test Kitchen Notes

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
In This Recipe
  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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