Remember Freedom Fries?
You cannot go around renaming food because you’re mad at its namesake. If we did that, we would have had to say goodbye to hamburgers, Korean BBQ, chicken Kiev, peaches (old name for Persia, AKA Iran), seltzer, French toast, German chocolate cake, and whoever else it is we don’t like this week.
So I make no apologies for Iraqi Spice-rubbed Chicken. If you feel very strongly about it, I suppose you could call it Mesopotamian Chicken or Assyrian Chicken, but really – let go of whatever feelings you may have about the politics, and revel in the amazing flavors of the cuisine.
This is from Saveur. I have slightly adapted it. See recipe for The Greek Layered Salad for details about and an explanation of sumac. Also? I think if any one (or two) spices are too difficult to locate, they could be skipped here – but I am a big proponent of a well-stocked spice cabinet. If your supermarket charges an arm and a leg for Spice Islands or McCormick or other name brands, seriously consider buying herbs & spices in bulk (as I do) and keeping in an old mustard jar, or buying from a mail-order place like Penzeys or Amazon. If you intend to learn to cook, it is imperative that you not be afraid of having ingredients at hand, and using them.
IRAQI SPICE-RUBBED CHICKEN (DJAJ BIL-BAHAH IL-ASFAR)
- 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
- 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
- 6 cardamom pods
- 4 dried red chiles, stemmed
- 4 allspice berries
- 4 whole cloves
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon ground sumac
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon ground fenugreek
- 8 cloves garlic, mashed into a paste
- 1 teaspoon salt
- optional: 4 dried rose hips (available at health food stores)
Heat a dry skillet over medium heat. Add the coriander, cumin, peppercorns, cardamom, chiles, allspice, and cloves, and cook to toast lightly, shaking the pan often, for one or two minutes until the spices become fragrant. Remove spices to a bowl (if you leave them in the pan, even off the heat, they will overcook.) Let cool.
If you have a spice grinder, grind the cooled spices in it, then mix with the other spices and mashed garlic.
If you don’t have a spice grinder, combine the toasted spices with the other spices and the mashed garlic in a blender or food processor, and blitz, stopping the machine often to scrape down the sides, until you have an unbelievably exotic-smelling blend.
Rub this spice mixture into the skin and under the skin of chicken. Discard any leftover spices (since you will have been dipping into it with hands that have been handling raw chicken).
Either grill chicken or roast in a 350 degree oven until cooked through (a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165 degrees, or a knife inserted at that point produces clear or yellow juices – if the juices run pink, it isn’t done).
Use this on whole chickens to roast, or halved/cut-up pieces. Makes enough for about 6 pounds of chicken.
Appropriate accompaniments would be rice, especially Persian jeweled rice, or couscous, plus eggplant prepared in any of a thousand ways. I think a raw, crisp salad with a tart vinaigrette or quick pickled vegetable is required here too. Fresh summer fruit such as apricots or melon would make a perfect dessert.