Za’atar chicken is a paring born out of south eastern Europe and the Middle East. Za’atar is a centuries old seasoning mixture of ground dried hyssop leaves and flowers combined with ground sumac, ground toasted sesame seeds, and sea salt. Za’atar’s flavor is as beguiling as is the regions where the herbs are grown. The distinctly minty flavor of the hyssop combined with the citrus like flavor of the sumac imparts a lovely earthy citrus note to grilled meats as well as vegetables and flat breads that make up the foundation of eastern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern meals.
Za’atar can be found in Middle Eastern shops and markets and, due to it’s increasing popularity with European and American cooks, Za’tar is more than likely available in your local supermarket as well.
That said many ready made za’atars may include other herbs, spices as well as chile. I much prefer sticking to the basics and mixing up my own za’atar ground and blended at home. Hyssop and sumac are readily available online. Proportions of ingredients when making your own Za’atar vary to suit your own tastes.
As there are so many tasty applications for Za’atar you will find yourself mixing up your own Za’atar at home as well as exploring store bought blends.
Za’atar Lemon Chicken:
- 2 organic chicken breasts, skin on
- 2 organic chicken legs, skin on
- 2 organic chicken thighs, skin on
1 cup full fat fat Greek yogurt
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely grated
- 3 tablespoons olive oil plus more for drizzling
- sea salt and pepper to taste
- 3 medium shallots, peeled and thinly sliced lengthwise and halved
- 2 lemons, thinly sliced into rounds
- 2 tablespoons za’atar
- fresh watercress as a garnish
Choose a mixing bowl that will hold all the chicken and marinade snugly.
In the bowl combine the yogurt, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, and salt and pepper. Stir until well combined. Add the chicken and press into the marinade until submerged. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 400 F / 220 c
Needed: a shallow roasting pan
Lightly oil the roasting pan pan with a little olive oil. Remove the chicken from the marinade, shaking off excess marinade, and placing the chicken pieces, skin side up, evenly distributed in the roasting pan.
Scatter the sliced shallots over the chicken and season generously with za’atar.
Place the lemon rounds on top of each piece of chicken and drizzle lightly with olive oil and season the lemon rounds with a light dusting za’atar.
Transfer the chicken to the oven and roast for 30 minutes. Test the chicken using a thermometer with an internal temperature of 165 degrees f. If the chicken is not quite done pop it back in the oven for another 10 minutes or more if needed.
Allow the chicken to rest for five minutes before plating as pictured. Drizzle with pan juices and serve garnished with fresh watercress as pictured.
For more information on sumac and another recipe you may enjoy: Sumac Roaster Chicken (click here)