Middle Eastern Chicken and Rice Fattah is a glorious dish with a riot of textures and flavors. Tender, juicy chicken is served with fragrant, Baharat (Arabic spice mix) spiced rice that sits on a bed of thin saj or markouk bread that has been dried until crispy then moistened with a fragrant broth. The rice is topped with an aromatic, spiced ground meat and crunchy almonds and pine nuts. Two essential sauces are drizzled on top: a cool and creamy minty yogurt sauce and a pungent, garlicky lemon and chili sauce.
Chicken and Rice Fattah is somewhat time consuming and involves multiple steps, but the result is a delicious and very special dish.
There are many variations of Chicken and Rice Fattah, from country to country and cook to cook, as well as variations of Fattah made with meat, chickpeas, or even eggplant. Most of them involve a layering of a crispy bread and yogurt with other ingredients.
For an incredible contrast of flavors and heat, I serve two sauces with my Chicken and Rice Fattah. The first is a tangy, pungent sauce of chopped chili peppers, garlic, and fresh lemon juice. To tame some of that heat and provide a cool, creamy contrast is a yogurt sauce with a hint of fresh mint. Many cooks top the Fattah with yogurt before serving, but I like to serve the sauces on the side so that each one can put as little or as much as they like.
A paper thin saj or markouk bread is the first layer of the Chicken and Rice Fattah. It can be found in Middle Eastern groceries. The bread is ripped by hand into bite sized pieces and left to dry out so that it becomes crispy.
A fragrant Baharat spiced chicken broth is poured onto the crispy bread and allowed to soak in. The bread becomes delightfully chewy and deliciously flavored – my favorite part of the Fattah! It’s well worth it to make up a batch of Baharat – you’ll be using almost three tablespoons in this dish: for the rice, bread, ground meat, and the chicken. Click here for the recipe.
Most recipes call for the chicken to be boiled with spices, onion, and water to make a broth that is then used to make the rice and to moisten the saj bread. I much prefer roast chicken with its juicy tenderness and crisp, browned skin. To achieve this, I make a spiced broth with leftover chicken bones, onion, and Baharat and roast the chicken separately.
You can use any kind of chicken you like for Chicken and Rice Fattah. I’ve made two dishes here, one with chicken legs, the other with two small, whole chickens. Keeping the skin on the chicken will give a much juicier chicken with a beautiful, browned, crispy skin.
|Middle Eastern Chicken and Rice Fattah|| |
- chicken: a 2½-3 pound whole chicken, chicken parts, or 2-3 smaller chickens
- 2 cups of buttermilk or yogurt
- 1 tablespoon Baharat (click for recipe)
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt or sea salt
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 large onion roughly chopped
- 2 lbs chicken bones and/or carcasses
- 1 stick celery
- 1 bay leaf
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 medium onion, chopped fine
- 1 tablespoon Baharat
- 1-2 chicken bouillon cubes to taste
- 1 large saj or markouk bread, about 6oz, 170g
- 1 cup whole almonds (5.7oz, 162g)
- ¼ cup pine nuts (1.3oz, 37g)
- ⅓ cup vegetable oil
- ½ lb ground beef or lamb (227g)
- 1 teaspoon Baharat
- ½ teaspoon salt or to taste
- 3 cups rice (I use a medium grain jasmine rice.)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon Baharat
- 5 cups (or as necessary) spiced broth
- salt to taste
- 5 cups spiced broth
- 2 cups plain yogurt (17oz, 482g)
- 1 clove garlic, pressed, smashed, or chopped fine
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon salt or to taste
- 6 cloves garlic, pressed, smashed, or chopped fine
- 2-3 green chilies chopped fine, or to taste
- ½ cup lemon juice
- Begin marinating the chicken the day before cooking. Mix buttermilk or yogurt, Baharat, and salt in a large ziplock bag. Add the chicken, press out any excess air, and put in refrigerator to marinate overnight.
- Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and let rest on the counter 30 minutes to 1 hour before baking.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Wipe off excess buttermilk or yogurt, place in a baking pan, and brush with vegetable oil.
- Bake until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh but not touching the bone registers 165 degrees F.
- Make a chicken stock with the chicken bones, onion, celery, bay leaf, salt, pepper and enough water to cover the bones and yield 2 quarts broth. I make mine in the pressure cooker for one hour. Alternatively, you can cook it on the stovetop for 2-3 hours. As a shortcut, you can use store-bought broth.
- In a separate pan, sauté the finely chopped onion in butter until soft. Add 2 quarts of chicken broth, chicken bouillon cube, and Baharat. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Taste broth and adjust the salt and pepper.
- Rip the bread into bite sized pieces and allow to sit uncovered for several hours to dry out. You can speed this up by drying it in a warm oven.
- If your almonds have the skin on, boil in water for a few minutes. Drain and let cool. The skins are easily pulled off. Cut almonds in half.
- Cook pine nuts in ⅓ cup oil over medium-high heat until golden brown. Remove with slotted spoon.
- Cook almonds in same oil until golden brown. Remove with slotted spoon.
- Lightly salt almonds and pine nuts and set aside.
- Saute the ground beef or lamb, Baharat, and salt (using a little oil if necessary) breaking apart the meat with a wooden spoon, until brown and crumbly.
- Melt butter in a medium-large sized pan.
- Saute rice for 30 seconds.
- Add Baharat and broth. Taste and adjust salt as necessary.
- Bring to a boil. Turn on low and keep covered. Allow to cook for 7 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Fluff with fork.
- Combine the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Keep in the refrigerator until needed.
- Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix.
- Pour enough hot spiced broth over dried saj bread in serving dish to moisten all of it, about 2-3 cups. Let it absorb the broth for a few minutes. See photo above for how it should look.
- Spread rice on top of saj bread.
- Layer ground meat topping on top of rice.
- Sprinkle almonds and pine nuts over rice and meat.
- Place chicken on top of rice.
- Drizzle everything with yogurt sauce if desired, or serve sauce separately.
- Serve garlicky lemon and chili sauce separately.