02 August 2014

Ottolenghi's Za'tar Roasted Chicken

There's something about the smell of a roasting chicken that I equate with the ultimate of cozy down home comfort. Take this latest Ottolenghi discovery, though, and it makes one feel like you're languishing somewhere on the beach near a Middle Eastern villa. I imagine the smells from this roasting bird wafting across the sands and enticing me back for a dinner on the terrace. The spices and colors are transformed to a crisp, za'atar dusted crust on the chicken. The onions and lemons are transformed to a soft tangy slurry that drapes well over your fork when you stab a slice of chicken and drag it through some of the accompanying green tahini sauce. Sigh ... Ottolenghi's recipes rarely disappoint and this one was utter bliss last evening, as SB and I dined on the cool back porch of our little grey cottage. No Mediterranean villa for us, alas, but the flavours? Oh yes,they were transporting !

The steam from the roasted bird was incredibly aromatic, as this chicken had been marinated for a few hours in onions, lemons, garlic cloves, cinnamon, allspice, za'tar, Kosher salt, and black pepper.  The chicken pieces (a whole chicken that was cut into eight pieces) joined the above ingredients with warm chicken broth and olive oil in a large zip-lock bag and sat in the fridge for the afternoon ... then this lazy girl lined a pizza pan with foil, plopped the veg and meat onto the pan and roasted the chicken in a hot oven, basting with the marinade juices during the last twenty minutes of roasting.

A fast run under the broiler, crisped the skin nicely and all we needed were garden green and wax beans steamed and tossed with buttery caramelized purple onions and a fresh cold tomato salad tossed with crunchy purple onion slivers and fresh basil. Yes, that purple onion made it into all three dishes last evening.I got mileage out of one big onion!

I had to do a bit of work to acquire the spices for this dish, but driving to Brattleboro, Vermont to visit the excellent food co-op was a fun diversion for a hot humid day. The co-op has the best source for bulk spices, beans, nuts, grains, and specialty pastas (GF, too!) around this area. I was able to find the za'tar spice blend and the sumac powder. Plus, I grabbed crystallized ginger slices like the ones found at my fave candy store in Concord, New Hampshire and gorgeous dried mango slices. Yes, there are mango ginger scones in my future ...but that's another story. The point of this tangent is to encourage you to find a good source for the spices and make this chicken dish! I really think you'll love it and the spices are key to its pizzazz ! Hope you have a terrific weekend!

We'll be using the leftover tomato salad and chicken to make a delish pizza on Saturday evening and chomping on mango ginger scones on Sunday morning. The rest of our weekend entails bike rides, a new quilting project, a visit to the Cheshire County Fair, and perhaps a visit to the antique shops. Don't you just love summertime ?

Here's Ottolenghi's recipe... and one final photo

Za’atar Roasted Chicken and Green Tahini Sauce

Serves 4 – 5


1 roaster chicken cut into 8 pieces (3 -4 pound bird)
2 medium purple onions, peeled and thinly sliced
3 large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 lemon, thinly sliced, seeded
1 tbsp. sumac
1½ tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 c. low-sodium chicken broth
¼ c. olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper
2 tbsp. za’atar
2 tbsp. butter
¼ c. pine nuts

Optional: flatbreads for soaking up the juices

Making the Dish:

  1. Wash and dry the chicken pieces.
  2. Place them in a large zip-lock bag with the purple onion, lemon, garlic, sumac, allspice, cinnamon, salt and pepper.
  3. Drizzle in the olive oil and chicken broth and toss to coat the chicken with the mix.
  4. Place the closed bag in a deep bowl and refrigerate for a few hours, turing and tossing the pieces every now and then.
  5. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the chicken pieces around the baking sheet and mound the lemons, onions, and garlic around and over the chicken, taking care not to cover too much of the chicken skin. Reserve the marinade juices for basting the chicken during the last twenty minutes of roasting time.
  6. Sprinkle on the za’tar generously. Roast the chicken for 45 – 55 minutes. Baste the bird for the last ten to 15 minutes. Then, turn on the broiler and crisp up the chicken skin, basting a couple times during the broiling period.
  7. Remove the chicken to a pretty rimmed platter. Mound the lemon/onion slurry around. Cover with foil and let it rest while you prepare the pine nuts.
  8. Melt the butter in a hot fry pan. Add the pine nuts and stir until the butter bubbles up and browns nicely and the pine nuts become golden brown.
  9. Top the chicken with the pine nuts and serve piping hot with a chilled green tahini sauce for dipping. You may also serve the chicken with warm flatbreads for dragging through the juices and topping with the lemon/onion slurry and green tahini sauce.

Green Tahini Sauce


2 large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 c. lightly packed fresh flat leaf parsley
½ c. tahini
¼ c. fresh squeezed lemon juice
½ c. water
Kosher salt, to taste

Place the first five ingredients in the small bowl of a food processor and whiz until smooth. The sauce should be like thin mayonnaise. Salt to taste and chill before serving.


  1. oh heavenly!... this really does look so divine... those spices sound just so intense and packed with flavour, so perfect for a hot day - filling the house with aromatics and wonderful juicy smells... like a taste of the east!

  2. I love roasted chicken! Mine is pretty basic--lots of thyme and butter--but I'm intrigued by this more exotic version. It looks delicious.


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