Roast Za’atar Chicken with Yogurt Sauce

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Let’s be honest: roasting a cut chicken in a baking dish is eons easier than roasting the whole bird, what with the basting and the watching and careful tinkering. Adapted from a Bon Apetit recipe, this roast za’atar chicken is a perfect way to use either a whole chicken, cut into pieces, or simply chicken legs. Drizzled with a herby za’atar oil and baked alongside loads of onions, garlic, and lemons, this chicken is nothing if not super flavorful.

Roast za'atar chicken with yogurt sauce

Ingredients:

1 whole chicken, cut into pieces, or 4 chicken legs (thigh and drumstick; about 3 pounds total)
2 red onions, cut into 2-inch-thick wedges
1 head of garlic, halved crosswise, plus 2 cloves
1 Meyer lemon, quartered, seeds removed
Salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons za’atar
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1. Preheat oven to 325F degrees. Arrange chicken, onions, halved garlic heads, and lemon in a baking dish; season with salt. Pour in oil and toss to coat. Turn garlic cut side down. Roast, rotating pan halfway through, until meat tender, 50–60 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, finely grate 1 small garlic clove into a small bowl. Add yogurt, a pinch of salt, and 1 tablespoon water and mix. Set aside yogurt sauce.

3. Remove baking dish from oven and transfer onions, garlic, and lemon to a plate. Increase oven temperature to 425F degrees and continue to roast chicken until skin is golden brown, 10–15 minutes more. Transfer chicken to a plate and let rest 10 minutes. Set aside pan with juices.

4. Finely grate remaining garlic clove into another small bowl. Add za’atar, coriander, and lemon zest. Pour reserved juices in pan into za’atar mixture until you have about 1/2 cup. Mix in a pinch of salt, if needed.

5. Spread reserved yogurt sauce over a platter and arrange chicken legs on top. Scatter onions, garlic, and lemon; drizzle with za’atar oil.

Turkey “Chorizo” and Potato Tacos

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These tacos aren’t by any means authentic but they are without a doubt delicious. I use ground turkey and a generous serving of fresh herbs to create a “chorizo” of sorts (let’s be honest, I’m being really liberal with the definition of chorizo here). Combined with fried potatoes (uh, who doesn’t love fried potatoes?) and a smattering of onions and cilantro, these tacos hit the spot.

Turkey chorizo and potato tacos

Ingredients:

For the chorizo:

1 medium serrano chile
1 large poblano chile
2 unpeeled garlic cloves
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 1/2 cups cilantro
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound ground turkey

For the tacos:

1/4 cup avocado oil
2 medium russet potatoes
2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup chicken broth
1 cup diced onion, rinsed in cold water
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
18 corn tortillas, warmed
Lime wedges, for serving

1. Heat a medium cast-iron skillet over medium. Add chiles and garlic cloves, and cook, turning occasionally, until charred and softened, about 4 minutes for serrano, 8 minutes for poblano, and about 12 minutes for the garlic. Transfer the chiles to a medium bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand 15 minutes. Stem, peel, and seed poblano. Stem and peel serrano. Set chiles aside. Let garlic cool, and peel cloves. Add coriander seeds and cumin seeds to skillet; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Finely grind seeds in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.

2. Combine chiles, garlic, ground spices, cilantro, vinegar, oregano, and salt in a food processor. Process until a coarse paste forms, about 1 minute, stopping to scrape down sides as needed.

3. In a medium bowl, mix the turkey with the puree and set aside.

4. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium. Add potatoes in a single layer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and crisp, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate, and sprinkle with 3/4 teaspoon salt. Do not wipe out skillet. Return skillet to heat over medium-high and add chorizo, stirring often, until crumbled and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Stir in chicken broth and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is mostly absorbed, about 1 minute.

5. Assemble tacos: Top each tortilla with about 2 tablespoons chorizo, 1 tablespoon potatoes, and 1 teaspoon onion and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.

Vietnamese-Style Chicken Wings

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Is there anything more satisfying than sticky, spicy, sweet chicken wings? I seasoned these generously with fried garlic, fish sauce, and Thai basil. Spoiler alert: there were no leftovers.

Vietnamese-Style Chicken Wings

Ingredients:

4 garlic cloves, chopped
3 tablespoons avocado oil
2 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/4 cup lime juice
10 chicken wings, split
Cooking spray
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup Thai basil leaves

1. Stir together 3 teaspoons sugar, 3 teaspoons fish sauce, and 2 tablespoons lime juice until sugar dissolves. Pour mixture into a ziplock plastic bag; add chicken. Seal bag; massage bag to coat wings with marinade. Refrigerate 1 day.

2. Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add garlic, stirring occasionally, until golden and crisp, being careful not to burn. Remove garlic with a slotted spoon and set aside on a paper towel-lined plate. Reserve garlic oil.

3. Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil; coat with cooking spray. Remove wings from marinade; discard marinade. Pat wings dry; arrange in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven until lightly browned, about 30 minutes, flipping once.

4. Meanwhile, whisk together 2 tablespoons water, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, remaining 2 tablespoons fish sauce, and remaining 2 tablespoons lime juice in a small bowl until sugar dissolves. Set aside.

5. Heat 2 tablespoons reserved garlic oil in a wok over high. Add wings and soy sauce; cook, stirring often, until darkened in spots, 1 to 2 minutes. Add fish sauce mixture; cook, stirring constantly, until sauce reduces and wings are glazed, about 1 minute. Add green onions and fried garlic, stirring constantly, about 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in basil. Transfer to a plate and serve.

Sri Lankan Chicken Biryani with Mint Sambol

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Once a year, I try my hand at making biryani. It’s typically a disaster: mushy or undercooked rice — nothing like the fluffy, fragrant grains infused with spice that I’m aiming for.

But this year is different! I finally stumbled upon a method, fool-proof for a biryani novice even like me. Success! Delicious, ghee-laden success. Accompanied with a cooling mint sambol, this chicken biryani is the real thing.

Sri Lankan chicken biryani with mint sambol

Ingredients:

For the chicken:
1 1/2 to 2 pounds chicken (I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs but any cuts will do just fine)
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon roasted curry powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup yogurt
1/4 cup tomato puree
2 tablespoons chopped cashews
2 tablespoons shredded coconut
1 cardamom pod
1 clove
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons ghee
1 onion, chopped
1 serrano chili, chopped

For the rice:
1 pound (about 3 cups) basmati rice
3 teaspoons ghee
1 onion, chopped
2 cardamom pods
2 cloves
2 bay leaves
1 2-inch stick cinnamon stick
A pinch of ground saffron
1 1/2 to 2 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt

For the mint sambol:
3 cups mint leaves
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 serrano chili
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 teaspoon sugar
Salt to taste

1. Wash and dry chicken. Season with salt, pepper, curry powder, and cayenne pepper.

2. In a food processor, blend yogurt, tomato puree, cashews, and coconut.

3. Combine yogurt mixture, cardamom pods, clove, and bay leaves with chicken and marinade at least 2 hours to overnight.

4. When ready to assemble and cook the chicken, preheat the oven to 300F degrees. Heat ghee in a medium pan on the stovetop. Fry the onion and chili until onions are lightly browned.

5. Remove chicken from marinade (reserving marinade), add to pan, and saute for about 10 minutes. Add a little water to the reserved marinade and pour over chicken. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and place chicken in a deep oven-proof baking dish.

6. Prepare the rice: Wash and drain the rice. Heat the ghee in a medium pan. Fry onion until lightly browned. Add cardamom pods, cloves, bay leaves, and cinnamon stick.

7. Add rice and fry for a few minutes until rice starts to turn lightly golden. Add saffron and mix well.

8. Pour in stock and simmer until rice is partially cooked (about 15 minutes). Add salt.

9. Place rice on top of chicken in baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in heated oven until moisture evaporates, about 45 minutes.

10. In the meantime, make the sambol: Blend all of the sambol ingredients together in a food processor to make a thick green paste. Serve with yogurt alongside biryani.

Persian Gulf-Style Chicken and Rice (Goboli Polo)

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This Persian Gulf-style spiced chicken and basmati rice pilaf is piled high with heaps of fried onions and potatoes. And I mean let’s be real: who doesn’t love fried potatoes? I adapted this from Najmieh Batmanglij’s Cooking in Iran, her tome on the lesser-explored regional cuisines of Iran. The rice is cooked in the spiced chicken broth, giving the dish a decadently rich flavor. I didn’t grow up with this dish, but it’s becoming part of my rotation now.

Goboli polo

Ingredients:

For the chicken:

1/2 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in water with 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 pounds skinless chicken thighs
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 2-inch cinnamon stick
6 cups water

For the rice:

2 cups basmati rice, soaked in water for 15 minutes, drained and rinsed at least 3 times

For the garnish:

1/3 cup olive oil
1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes
2 onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon ground heart of dried Persian limes (limoo omani)
1/2 cup currants or raisins, soaked in water for 10 minutes and drained

1. To cook the chicken: In a large pot, place all the ingredients for the chicken and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 45 minutes, until the chicken is tender. Place a sieve over a large bowl and drain the chicken, reserving the broth. Return the broth to the pot and set the chicken and chickpeas aside.

2. To cook the rice: Add the rice to the broth. Give it a stir with a cooking spoon and bring it back to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat for 30 to 40 minutes until the rice is tender and the broth has been absorbed.

3. Make the garnish: In a wide skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add the potatoes and saute until golden brown. Remove the potatoes from the skillet and set aside on a paper towel-lined plate.

4. Add the remaining oil to the same skillet and saute the onion over medium low heat for about 30 minutes, until golden brown. Add the salt, turmeric, dried lime, currants, and potato, and saute for another 2 minutes.

5. Just before serving, heat 2 teaspoons oil in a wide skillet over medium heat until hot. Saute the chicken and chickpeas until golden, about 5 to 7 minutes.

6. To serve: Remove the rice from the pot and transfer it to a serving platter. Arrange the chicken and garnish on top. Serve with sabzi khordan (fresh herb platter).