My favorite way to prepare the ever-popular chicken breast is with the Italian method for cooking poultry under a brick. The weight of the “brick’” (or whatever you use to flatten the breasts) speeds up the cooking time, hence keeping the meat tender and the skin extra-crispy.
Za’atar brings a Middle Eastern flavor to this Italian-inspired dish. Za’atar is a spice blend that’s made from Jordan to Lebanon to Israel, each place putting its own touch on the blend. The common ingredients are sumac, sesame, thyme, and oregano or marjoram. Sumac can be found at many Middle Eastern, gourmet or grocery stores.
Za’atar Chicken Under a Brick
1 tablespoon plus one teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon ground sumac
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
4 chicken breasts, de-boned, skin on
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons salted butter
Take chicken breasts out of the refrigerator a half hour before cooking to come to room temperature.
Mix herbs, spices, sesame, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper in a small bowl. This is your za’atar.
Lightly sprinkle the remaining salt over the chicken breasts. Being careful not to tear the skin, rub about 1 tablespoon of the za’atar over the chicken and lightly under the skin. Keep any extra around at room temperature to use in meals for the next two weeks.
Heat 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat in a large, hot sauté pan. Add the chicken to the pan, skin side up. Weigh down the breasts with bricks, or by instead, by placing another sauté pan over the breasts and weighing the pan down with cans or heavy cookware. Lower the heat to medium.
Cook for 6 minutes. Remove the weight, flip the chicken so it’s skin side down, then replace the weight. Cook for 6 to 8 more minutes. The chicken is ready to serve when juices run clear when the chicken is pierced. Let sit for two minutes before serving.
chicken recipe, middle eastern, za'atar
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