Palestinian chicken, because this is way beyond pre-tay, pre-tay good

I have never fully embraced Curb Your Enthusiasm. Which is weird, because I loved Seinfeld, I like warped humor, and they had a character named Marty Funkhouser (rest in power, Bob Einstein). But it just never hit the mark with me.

What did hit the mark, however, was the episode with the Palestinian chicken – and granted even the episode has its own issues and doesn’t hold up as well as you’d like. But the chicken…it’s no joke, this stuff is really great.

(Setting up that this post will not be hijacked by any sort of pro/anti Israel/Palestine discussion, this is food, and if any of you little spazoids try, I know where you live and I’ve seen where you sleep, and I swear to everything holy that your mothers will cry when they see what I do to you.)

What makes it great is that it gets marinated in yogurt and spices for 24 hours. You would think that the yogurt would make the skin soft and flabby, but it’s the complete opposite. It gets crispy and browned, almost blackened. And the yogurt helps tenderize the meat too, because…science…

First thing you need to do is to get yourself a whole chicken. A normal sized one, about 4 pounds or so, not the ginormous ones that would have qualified for small turkeys a few years ago. I highly recommend getting an air chilled one if that’s an option.

One you have your not bio-generated monster chicken, you’re going to spatchcock it. You might remember that we covered this in a previous post, from like forever ago. But, if you haven’t been with the blog before last week, here’s a quick review of how to do it, brought to you by the smooth voice of Chef John.

Now, could you just use a cut up chicken, or random chicken parts, or the crab from The Little Mermaid? Sure, I guess.

Should you?

Spatchcocking it is going to keep everything flat and get maximum browning and minimum time cooking. And you will know that this was once an animal, and it died for you…after someone at a meatpacking plant killed it for you…

For the marinade, you’re just going to mix the yogurt with shallots and a few herbs and spices. The recipe calls for sumac. However, our local market didn’t have any, and I kept getting a 404 error every time I went to, so I subbed in some lemon pepper and it turned out just fine.

Once you’ve got all the marinade mixed together, get yourself a big Ziploc bag, toss the chicken in there, and cover it with your yogurt goodness.

(Awkward pause)

Then rub the yogurt all over the chicken, making sure you cover every inch of the yeah this isn’t making it any better just toss it around in the yogur oh for crying out loud just close the bag and put it into the fridge.

Now that the yogurt bird is resting in the fridge, let’s talk toum. Never heard of toum? Neither had I! It’s essentially an eggless garlic mayo, which you will want to spread on everything you eat for the rest of your life.

Could you just take a jar of mayonnaise and mix in some jarred minced garlic? I guess.

Should you?

Yes, it’s going to be a pain in the ass to crush all those garlic cloves, and the peels are going to be sticky, and your hands are going to reek of garlic, and no one will want to touch you even though that was probably the case before you started crushing garlic anyways but go ahead and use the garlic as an excuse if it makes you feel better. But look at what that’s going to yield you.

And then you’re not going to get to watch it turn into this lovely garlic paste…

…and see it turned into this huge mound of garlic spread goodness.

So, do yourself a favor and take the time to make this yourself. The chicken isn’t going anywhere…and if it does…you have other issues you’re going to need to deal with.

The next day, after your chicken is done soaking in the marinade, pull it out of the fridge. Lay some foil on top of a roasting pan or baking sheet (you do NOT want to be scraping this off the bottom of a pan) and lay your chicken flat over it. Pop it in the oven, and when it’s done let it rest before you cut into it. It’s going to be hotter than hell, and you want all the bird juices to reabsorb into the meat and not fly out of it.

Once your bird is rested, cut off a piece of it, throw it on a plate with some toum, and dig in.

Palestinian Chicken with Toum

from Binging With Babish

Serves 4


1 whole chicken, about 4 pounds

1 cup yogurt

2 shallots, finely diced

Zest of 1 lemon

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 t sumac (lemon pepper can be substituted)

1/2 t ground cardamom

1 bunch fresh dill, chopped (no dry dill)

1 T olive oil

2 heads garlic, peeled

1 cup canola, or other neutral oil

1/4 c lemon juice


In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt, shallots, lemon zest, juice of 1/2 lemon, cardamom, sumac, dill, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Spatchcock the chicken, and place it in a gallon sized storage bag.  Pour contents from the yogurt bowl into the bag, remove as much excess air from the bag, and seal.  Rub the yogurt mixture all over the chicken to ensure it is completely coated.

Place the bag in the refrigerator, and allow it to marinate overnight.

The next day, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Place a layer of foil over the bottom of a roasting pan or sheet tray.  Remove chicken from bag, and lay on top of the foil (no need to remove the excess marinade).

Roast chicken for 45-55 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking, peel the garlic cloves and place in the bowl of a food processor.  Start the processor, and pulse until the garlic forms a smooth paste.

Once a paste is formed, slowly drizzle in 1/2 cup of the canola oil.  Stop the processor and allow it to rest for a few seconds.  Then slowly drizzle in the 1/4 cup of lemon juice, and allow to rest for a few seconds.  Slowly drizzle in the remaining oil, until the mixture forms into a smooth paste.

Once chicken is finished cooking, remove from the oven and rest for at least 10 minutes.  Carve chicken and serve with toum.

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