M'hammar Chicken

M’hammar Chicken


….with food from the Eastern Mediterranean.

M’hammar (mahammar) chicken is prepared in a myriad of ways throughout the Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East, and North Africa. Essentially a spit roasted marinated chicken, but regionally braised and roasted as well.

The spit roasting bit will surely deter all but those of you who happen to have a rotisserie grill, but there is a way to get around this conundrum and enjoy the pleasures of this aromatic succulent chicken coming out of your own kitchen oven. Of course you could just go out and pick up a rotisserie chicken and slather it with your own charmoula sauce, but read on and see if you can be persuaded otherwise, and give it a try?

The trick here is roasting the chicken in a cast iron Dutch oven roaster, a kind of tandoor oven effect, with a surprising rotisserie like result.

M’hammar Chicken  serves 4
Prepare a day in advance.

  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 ½ teaspoons turmeric powder
  • 1-2 teaspoons chile flakes
  • 4-6 cups water, adding more if needed to cover the chicken when submerged
  • 1 organic chicken

Combine the salt, sugar, bay leaves, turmeric, chile flakes, and water in a container large enough to hold the chicken with some room to spare. Stir until the salt and sugar have dissolved and immerse the chicken into the brine, adding additional water to completely cover the chicken when submerged.Place a plate on top of the chicken to submerge the chicken in the brine. Cover with a lid or cling film and refrigerate for 24 hours, turning the chicken several times while brining.

Once the brining is completed, remove the chicken and rinse it under cold running water. Pat dry, trim off any excess fat, and set aside.

Prepare in the morning for evening roasting.

Charmoula (Marinade)

  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh coriander roots
  • 4 large garlic cloves, grated
  • 3 tablespoons grated shallots
  • 1 ½ teaspoons toasted cumin seeds
  • 2-3 small fresh hot chilies, seeded and minced
  • 1 ½ teaspoons turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon crushed saffron threads
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil 

Into a mortar add the minced coriander roots, grated garlic, grated shallots, toasted cumin seeds, minced chilies, turmeric, saffron threads, and salt. Grind and pound the ingredients with a pestle until it is reduced to a homogeneous paste. Add the lemon juice and honey and stir with the pestle until incorporated. While stirring with the pestle begin adding the olive oil in a slow steady stream until the oil is emulsified into the paste.

You may want to wear disposable plastic gloves for massaging the chicken with the marinade.

Place the prepared brined chicken in a large bowl and spoon the marinade over the chicken and massage the marinade over the entire surface of the chicken, into the cavity, and into the leg and wing joints. Turn the chicken breast side up and pat any excess marinade over the surface. Cover with cling film and marinate for 5 hours in the refrigerator, removing the chicken from the refrigerator after 5 hours and setting it aside for 1 hour to bring it to room temperature for roasting.

Roasting  Preheat the oven to 425F/220C

  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1-2 cups water
  • fresh coriander leaves for garnishing

Prepare a cast iron Dutch oven roaster fitted with a rack on the bottom and transfer the chicken to the roaster, placing it breast side down on the rack, spooning half of any remaining marinade over the chicken. Add water to the roaster to just below the rack. Scatter the diced onions around the chicken and transfer the roaster to the oven, uncovered, and roast for 30 minutes.

Remove the roaster from the oven and run a large wooden spoon through the chicken’s cavity and turn the chicken breast side up. Baste with the remaining half of the marinade. Add addition water to the bottom of the pan if needed. Return the roaster to the oven, uncovered. Place the roaster’s lid on the bottom rack of the oven to heat it up for the final phase of roasting.

Roast the chicken for another 30 minutes or, depending on the size of the chicken, until the internal temperature of the chicken is approaching 160F/71C with the thermometer inserted into the thigh.

Baste with pan juices and then, using a heavy oven mitt, place the hot lid on the roaster. Turn the heat up to as hot as it will go and roast for another 10 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the oven, carefully remove the lid and insert a sharp knife into the thigh. If the juices run clear the chicken is done! If not, return the chicken to the oven, covered, for another 5 or 10 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a platter, again using the wooden spoon inserted through the cavity. Loosely cover the chicken with foil and a kitchen towel and let the chicken rest for 15-20 minutes.

Transfer the roaster to the top of the stove. Remove the roasting rack and skim off any excess fat. Add 1 or more cups of water to the pan and deglaze the pan over medium heat and reduce the pan juices, seasoning with more salt to taste.


Place the chicken in a shallow serving bowl or platter and pour the pan juices over and around the chicken. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves.

Serve with Charred Eggplant with Currant Vinaigrette (previous post), and buttery cous cous.


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