Skip to main content

Chicken Zaatar

By January 31, 2012September 19th, 2019Cuisine, Uncategorized

Although I am a real fan of the iPad, there is nothing quite like the thrill of getting a glossy magazine and settling in for a good read. 


Chicken Za’atar

My sister and I share a joke about the lifestyle oracle, Real Simple, “Ah…I see the porn has arrived.”  So although I do a lot of research online, I still relish my hard copies of magazines such as Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, and Saveur.  I’m old fashioned enough to rip out pages and stick them into messy folders, from which they very occasionally make their way into a very organized binder with plastic page protectors.

This recipe comes from a wonderful article in Bon Appétit last summer in which London based chef, Silvana Rowe, of Quince Restaurant and author of “Purple Citrus & Sweet Perfume” shared some of her favorite Middle Eastern dishes.  At the first page, my mouth was watering and by page two, I realized to my delight that all of the ingredients could be easily acquired in Moscow.  I’d been looking for a new way to do chicken and this recipe for grilled chicken parts rubbed with the classic “za’ater” spice blend quickly earned its place as a staple of the Moscovore table d’hôte.

Chicken Za’atar works well as the crowning centerpiece of a dinner party with a Middle Eastern theme, or as a simple Sunday night quickie, combined with a crisp salad and perhaps some Hummus or Baba Ganouch with crusty bread.  I test drove it at a very laid back buffet supper with The Urban Family on a movie night and was pleased to see it disappeared almost immediately.

Note that this dish requires roasted garlic, which should in no way be a deterrent.  For systematic instructions for roasting garlic, see this article.  You can source all of the spices you need at the farmer’s market – and The Moscovore’s shopping lists provide Russian translations for all of the spices listed here.  Do not be afraid to try the sumac, by the way!

I’ve included Silvana Rowe’s recipe for Cumin Aioli, which is a great accompaniment to the chicken.

Chicken Za’atar


  • 2 heads of roasted garlic
  • 1 whole chicken cut into four parts
  • 12 ml (1-1/2 Tbl) lemon zest
  • 45 ml (3 Tbl) lemon juice
  • 45 ml (1 Tbl) fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 Serrano chile, seeded and minced
  • 20 ml (2 tsp)dried or fresh marjoram
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper

For the Za’atar

  • 15 ml (1 Tbl) chopped fresh oregano
  • 15 ml (1 Tbl) sumac (this is available at the farmer’s market)
  • 15 ml (1 Tbl) ground cumin
  • 15 ml (1 Tbl) sesame seeds
  • 5 ml (1 tsp) kosher salt
  • 5 ml (1 tsp) fresh ground black pepper


  1. Prepare the za’atar: combine all of the za’atar ingredients together in a food processor and pulse 5 times. You can make this ahead of time and store in a non-reactive container with an airtight lid.
  2. Prepare the chicken: thoroughly wash chicken parts under cold running water, and then pat dry with paper towels. Rub the za’atar into the chicken and arrange it in a non-reactive baking dish.
  3. Zest the lemon, then the juice (not the other way around), and combine with the chopped rosemary, 4 Tbl (60 ml) of olive oil, marjoram, and roasted garlic. Whisk to blend, then smear over the chicken. Cover, and chill for 12 hours.
  4. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator, season with salt and pepper, then bring to room temperature (30-45 minutes).
  5. This recipe is designed to use an outdoor charcoal grill, but you can also run it under the broiler or grill it on the stovetop in an cast-iron grill pan.

To Broil: 

Place chicken skin side up under the broiler for 10-15 minutes, keeping an eye out that it does not scorch. Turn over and cook for another 15 minutes. You will know it is done when the skin is crisp, and when a knife point inserted into the thigh meat gives way easily and the juices run clear. If you have a meat thermometer, check that the meat is 160 F (70 C).

To Grill on the Stovetop: 

Skim your grill pan with a light coating of canola or vegetable oil and heat until the oil is just about to smoke. Place chicken skin side down and grill for 7 minutes. Flip the chicken on to its other side for another 7 minutes. Repeat this process until the skin is crisp and a knife point inserted into the thigh meat gives way easily and the juices run clear. If you have a meat thermometer, check that the meat is 160 F (70 C).

6. Allow the chicken to rest on a platter or chopping board, lightly tented with foil.

From Silvena Rowe in Bon Appetit

Cumin Aioli


  • 10 ml (1 tsp) cumin seeds
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 15 ml (1 Tbl) fresh lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • kosher salt
  • 125 ml (1/2-cup) grapeseed oil
  • 60 ml (1/4-cup) olive oil


  1. Toast the cumin seeds in a small skillet over medium heat until they begin to brown lightly, and the smell wafts up. Let cool, then mince or grind in a mortar and pestle.
  2. Whisk the yolks until thick, then add the lemon juice and garlic into a small bowl or a food processor fitted with a steel blade.
  3. Painstakingly slowly, add first the grapeseed oil, then the olive oil, drop by drop to the egg yolk solution, whisking all the time. If you are using a food processor, dribble the oil through the tiny hole in the top. The mayonnaise will emulsify, thickening to a nice creamy texture.
  4. Whisk in the cumin seeds, cover and chill for at least 2 hours.

From Silvena Rowe in Bon Appetit

As ever, I welcome your comments on this and all our recipes!

Serve, and enjoy!


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.