This is a recipe made popular by nomadic shepherds and Palestinian villagers, where people had limited means and it’s the true essence of a rustic dish. It delivers the indigenous and a quintessential flavors of Jerusalem and though simple in flavor, it is one on of the most exquisite chicken dishes I’ve ever tasted and prepared. The dish calls for a whole chicken, but it can easily be substituted with thighs.
Not be confused with the sofrito associated with Spain or Philippines, as the Spanish word sofreir means to fry lightly. The technique here is to braise the chicken in very little liquid and allow the chicken to render out all its juices, so don’t be discouraged by the little amount of liquid added.
Don’t remove the skin, as the vital component for the flavoring the dish and will add succulence and moistness.
The preparation may seem a bit laborious, but the result is so awe-inspiring it’ll be a dish you’ll recreate many times over. Don’t be alarmed by the large amount of garlic. The cloves will become a nutty, creamy wonder and these will be fought over more so than the actual chicken. So, the more the merrier!
1 TBSP olive oil
1 whole chicken split in two or 10 chicken thighs – bone and skin on
1 TSP sweet Spanish paprika
¼ TSP ground turmeric
½ TSP sugar
1 TSP of ground cumin
1 large onion – chopped roughly
Juice of half lemon – about 4 TBSP
5-6 medium sized potatoes – peeled and cut into med cubes
25-30 cloves of whole peeled garlic
Kosher and fresh cracked pepper
Have the butcher split the chicken for you. Season with salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven heat up the oil and sear the chicken skin side down. Turn it over and sprinkle it all over with the paprika, turmeric, cumin, sugar and the lemon juice. Add the onion and cover with the lid. Braise the chicken for about 1 hour. There should be about 1″ of liquid at the bottom of the pot – add a bit of chicken stock, but very little.
In a large skillet, heat up about 1 TBSP of olive oil and start browning the potato quarters and the whole garlic cloves turning them till they are brown – for about 8-10 minutes and remove to a plate lined with paper towels and season with some salt. They will finish cooking in the pot with the chicken.
Lift the chicken with some tongs and place the potatoes and on the bottom of the Dutch oven, stirring a bit to coat with the pan juices. Place the chicken on top of the potatoes and cook for an additional 30-40 minutes.
The chicken should be falling off the bone and the potatoes will have soaked some of the cooking liquid.