Baharat Spiced Persian Roasted Chicken

109726378_3067051656677298_2260557059472754986_oBaharat is often used in Arabic cooking- most commonly in Persian and Turkish dishes to add spice and a little heat to meat dishes, couscous, and tagines. The warm exotic flavors of Baharat are an easy way to spice up simple dishes and give them a little intrigue.

The word “Baharat” simply means “spices” in Arabic, and this wonderfully complex blend has a unique balance of flavors. The chicken is rubbed down with salt and Baharat Spice, seared on the stove and finished in the oven until golden and crispy. Serve with saffron rice, cucumber yogurt sauce and salad and you’ll have a simple, delicious, Middle Eastern style dinner.

baharat-spice-mix

Photo Credit: Feasting at Home, 2014.

Baharat consists of cumin, cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg, peppercorns, allspice, star of anise and black lemon. For the record, black Lemons are actually dried limes, and owe their misnomer to the English translation from Arabic. They are typically used in Middle East cooking to add sourness or acidity to chutneys, soups and stews and even ground into flat breads.Ground Black Lemons have a sweet-tart flavor that is unique and really has no substitute. You can order black lemons from specialty gourmet markets found online. For this recipe, if you cannot find black lemons, you can omit them. However, in this case I used finely grated lime zest and a pinch of sugar.

Traditionally, to make the Baharat spice mix, you would normal roast whole spices and then place all the spices in a coffee grinder, and pulse until it is ground. In this version, ground spices were used. It’s perfectly fine to substitute ground spices, although the more whole seeds you have, the better the flavor. But don’t let the lack of the whole seeds stop you from making this dish.

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:
For the Chicken:
4 – 6 Chicken thighs, bone in, skin on.
Salt, to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil

For the Baharat Spice Blend:
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
3 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cardamon
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground star of anise
1/2 teaspoon finely ground lime zest

For the Cucumber Salad:
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 large English cucumber, thinly sliced
2 –3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, dill, parsley and cilantro
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 small  shallot, minced
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
A pinch of cayenne  pepper

For Serving:
Cooked Jasmine Rice
Cucumber Salad, see recipe below.

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 º F.

Place the cucumber in a colander and sprinkle with salt. Set aside.

To make the  Barahat Spice, add all the spices to a small bowl and stir to combine.

Sprinkle both sides of  the chicken generously with kosher salt. Rub in a generous amount , abut ¾ teaspoon of Baharat Spice on both sides of each piece of chicken.

Heat oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Sear chicken, in hot oil, skin side down for 3 – 4 minutes, until golden and crispy. Turn over and sear other side, turning heat down to medium. Sear another 3 – 4 minutes. Place the skillet in the middle of the oven, uncovered, and baked until cooked through, about 15 – 20 minutes or until internal temp reaches 170 º F ( for thighs) and juices run clear. Remove from the oven and let rest 5 minutes before serving.

To make cucumber salad, drain the cucumber slices and pat dry with paper towels. Add the cucumber the remaining salad ingredients to a medium bowl. Gently fold to combine.

To serve family style, arrange the chicken on a platter and garnish fresh mint leaves, if desired. Serve the chicken with the Jasmine rice and cucumber salad.

 

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Persian Fried Chicken

persian chicken

This is an absolutely wonderful dish that is very easy to prepare and requires some advance planning. A yogurt marinade helps tenderize the boneless, skinless chicken thighs, infusing them with saffron and paprika, and a quick frying lends the meat a crispy, minty coating. The chicken must marinate for several hours, or overnight for the best results,  before it can be cooked and the marinade contains that costliest of spices, saffron but the wait and splurge are worth it.

Enjoy!

Serves 8

Ingredients:

½ teaspoon saffron or turmeric*
2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt
1 Tablespoon chopped garlic
2 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon dried mint
1 Tablespoon salt, more for sprinkling
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
Vegetable oil, for frying
1 cup walnut clusters, for garnish
1 lemon, cut into wedges

Directions:

In a small bowl, combine saffron with 1 tablespoon water and let soak 10 minutes. Place in food processor with yogurt and garlic and purée until smooth and  pale yellow. Place chicken in ziploc plastic bag; pour yogurt mixture on top, seal the plastic bag and turn to coat; place the ziploc bag in a bowl and and refrigerate at least 3 hours or overnight, for the best results.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, paprika, garlic powder, mint, salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken pieces in flour mixture, dip the chicken in the yogurt batter once again and dredge in the flour a second time. Place the chicken on a wire rack and allow the breaded chicken to sit for  about 1o to 15 minutes before frying.

Heat a generous half-inch oil in a  deep cast iron skillet over medium heat. Drop in a bit of bread to test temperature; oil should bubble vigorously. Working in batches to avoid crowding, fry the chicken until it is golden brown on both sides, about 7 minutes per side. Remove and drain on paper towels.

Sprinkle with salt and top with walnuts and lemon wedges. Serve with basmati or jasmine rice, family style.

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*Cook’s Notes: 

Saffron, long among the world’s most costly spices by weight, is native to Greece or Southwest Asia and was first cultivated in Greece.saffron_thread.jpg
Saffron is a spice derived from the flower of Crocus sativus, commonly known as the “saffron crocus”. Saffron crocus grows to 20–30 cm (8–12 in) and bears up to four flowers, each with three vivid crimson stigmas, which are the distal end of a carpel. The styles and stigmas, called threads, are collected and dried to be used mainly as a seasoning and coloring agent in food.
In terms of flavor, no substitute for saffron exists. It is completely unique.

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant of the ginger fturmeric.jpgamily, Zingiberaceae. It is native to southwest India.

When not used fresh, the rhizomes are boiled for about 30–45 minutes then dried in hot ovens, after which they are ground into a deep-orange-yellow powder commonly used as a spice in Bangladeshi cuisine, Indian cuisine, Pakistani cuisine and curries, for dyeing, and to impart color to mustard condiments. One active ingredient is curcumin, which has a distinctly earthy, slightly bitter, slightly hot peppery flavor and a mustardy smell.

Turmeric has a very strong, distinctive flavor, and could easily overpower or clash with other flavors in a recipe not written for it. You might be very unhappy with the results in a dish that’s supposed to have the subtlety of saffron. However, it would certainly work in certain dishes, albeit with an entirely different flavor profile.

If the primary interest is coloring, there is the suggestion of annatto, as it imparts a beautiful color with essentially no flavor.

Personally, rather than try to a substitute for the saffron, I would continue to use it in those recipes that call for it, especially if it’s key in the flavor profile. For example, saffron pilaf just won’t work without it.  If your  budget is  tight, just make those dishes less frequently and savor them all the more, when you use saffron.

TODAY.com Parenting Team FC Contributor