Broiled Syrian Chicken with Sumac

I like to think of myself as daring in love and spunky in the kitchen. That doesn’t imply that I’m terribly astir in the pursuit of either, but it does hint to a certain spasmodic talent. Or so I believe.

I rose to the occasion today, well at least on the culinary front, when I found myself facing the task of preparing lunch for my daughter and myself. Like a listless airline steward, resigned to asking his trite question, I cleared my throat and marveled out loud: “What would it be Nadia, pasta or chicken?” It was perhaps the fact that she didn't actually care and that she left me to my own devices that set me on the path to prepare and cook, the perfect Broiled Syrian Chicken with Sumac.

The very first time I heard that there's such an entree was in 1984 in Lafayette, Louisiana, of all places. I was driving on a side, obscure street, in the downtown area, when I saw a nondescript sign advertising Syrian Chicken. I parallel parked across from the olden structure and went in. A young lady, in her mid-seventies, greeted me with a smile that brought the charm of the Tartous countryside to southwestern Louisiana. Her parents came from Daher Safra, she confided, but she was born in the USA. She'd been home to Syria just once in the 1950's. She did speak a little Arabic though, and she knew how to cook Syrian food. I ordered her specialty, Broiled Syrian Chicken with Sumac, as per her recommendation. I don't think I ever tasted to this day any poultry dish that even comes close to her simple masterpiece. All I remember, however, is that it was served in a paper plate with onions and potatoes and that it tasted brazenly of sumac.

The idea of recreating this dish struck me. I was challenged by my daughter's indifference, and I intended to leave an immutable mark on her palate. I daresay that I exceeded my own expectations and most certainly hers with the outcome.

I cook by the seat of my pants. The list of ingredients below was compiled out of what I found in the fridge and the kitchen cabinets. Don't bother yourself with exact measurement. Follow your nose and eye, trust your delish memories, and have balls (or whatever the proper politically correct female equivalent are).

List of Ingredients:

  • 1 chicken cut in pieces
  • 4 medium sized potatoes (½” slices)
  • 2 medium sized onions (cut in rings)
  • 2 medium sized tomatoes (1/2” slices)
  • Bell peppers: 1 green, 1 red, and 1 orange (cut in rings)
  • A few jalapenos (if you're so inclined; cut in rings)
  • Garlic (as much as you want; peeled and finally chopped.
  • Every imaginable spice and dry pepper possible, or whatever you happen to have. I used cinnamon, cumin, black pepper, oregano, thyme, and red pepper flakes.
  • Sumac, plenty of.
  • 1 liter of red wine or balsamic vinegar
  • Salt
  • Ketchup, HP sauce, mustard, Tabasco, soy sauce... whatever, eh!

  • In a bowl, marinate the pieces of chicken, after cutting them diagonally in the wine or vinegar, adding all the spices listed above and salt. Cover and leave in the fridge for 3 hours.
  • Spread the potatoes, onions, tomatoes, peppers and garlic in a pan. Place the pieces of chicken on top.
  • Top each piece with ketchup, HP sauce, mustard, Tabasco, soy sauce and sprinkle with plenty of sumac. Wipe them evenly with a knife.
  • Pour the spicy marinating wine or vinegar in the pan making sure it covers the veggies but not the pieces of chicken.
  • Cover and seal pan with aluminum foil, place in oven at 185ÂșC for 1 hour.
  • Remove aluminum foil and turn top heat in oven on for 15 minutes.
  • Serve and enjoy.


Anonymous said…
dear Abufares ,,
it is not easy to find summak out of Syria and when you find sone it old, so I searched for a aubstitute for it , i wanted to make some zahtar halabi, all the other ingredietes we have the same green zahtar, kdame, and replaced the summak with the hibiscus flower, it has ther same taste and color, and it is good for those who suffer diabetes, the next recipe will be yours,
thank you
Unknown said…
Well, that just sounds really darn good, eh? :-) Thanks for the recipe and I love the accompanying story.
Gabriela said…
This sounds and looks delicious. When I cook, more exactly, when I bake, I always follow my nose and eye. Let me tell you: they rarely make mistakes.
Joseph said…
Alf saha whanna :-)
Abufares said…
Glad to see you here and thank you for your suggestion. I'm sure many people who have no access to Sumac will gladly use the hibiscus plant instead.
Sahha wa Hana, enjoy this dish and everything else you make.
Abufares said…
It's darn good, alright :-P
You know, I'm starting to talk like a Canadian, eh!!! It's the damnedest thing and I have no idea how I picked it. I think it was a movie, a comedy, where that supposedly Canadian girl kept saying it all the time.
I thought it was kind of cute and/or sexy, eh!
I hope you give this recipe a try. I'm sure you'll like it. It's absolutely delicious.
Abufares said…
Cooking is so much like flying as far as I'm concerned. Unless you're "comfortable in the air" you'll never experience the joy of being up there. It's the same in the kitchen. Sure, there are rules to follow and recipes to emulate, but the magic a dash of an exotic, or even uncalled for spice, can bring to the dish makes all the difference sometimes. Thank you for coming over.
Abufares said…
Ala Albak my friend. Man, we should get together one day, and at least, eat, drink and party.
Until then, Cheers, Kassak!!!

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