Chef Samir is Back: Palestinian Musakhan Chicken

Some of you might remember Chef Samir when I had him on my channel 2 years ago, visiting his restaurant called Beit Rima and sampling his modern yet homey take on Arab dishes. Many of you asked that we collaborate once more, and I found a perfect excuse to invite him back for National Arab Heritage month for NBC!

Since I saw Samir last, he has been featured on the Food Network show called Chopped, his restaurant was selected one of the top 100 restaurants of San Francisco, and he was a semi-finalist for the James Beard awards– no small feat! But what Chef Samir has maintained is that humble dedication to creating Arab comfort food in an inviting atmosphere. 

Enter either of his Beit Rima restaurants, and you will feel like you are in an Arab home. Vintage art and photography adorn the walls, whether a photo of the iconic Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum or a portrait of his own mother, who inspired his cooking journey. Miniature Turkish coffee cups and Arabic cookbooks are tucked into cozy nooks, and long tables line the restaurant to encourage a communal dining experience.

For his segment with me on the NBC show “California Live, he chose to share the Palestinian chicken dish called “Musakhan.”  This dish is quintessential Arab comfort food you would more likely eat in a home rather than in a restaurant. As a matter of fact this is a childhood favorite in my family, where we literally have fought over the browned and crispy bread, which is rich with the pan juices from the chicken roasting on top.

You know what is really amazing? His recipe tastes very similar to mine (with a couple of different technique variations). This shows how even though Palestinian and Arab Americans in general can be scattered all across the globe, the recipes remain intact. It is our primary thread to the motherland that we try to keep alive and authentic with each new generation. And the greatest thing about Youtube (and other social media) is we get to share these recipes with our virtual extended family (like you) so you can enjoy them too!

To see the segment and the recipe technique, click on the new video below:

Chef Samir’s Musakhan (Palestinian Chicken)

  • 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • Half cup of olive oil
  • Half cup of lemon juice
  • 8 yellow onions
  • 4 tbsp sumac: half for chicken and half for onions, pinch as garnish
  • ~ 4 tbsp Baharat spice mix (can use 5 spice mix)
  • ~ 4 or 5 tbsp Kosher salt, to taste
  • Toasted pine nuts as desired
  • 1 package pita bread
  • Start with 8 pieces of bone-in chicken thighs. Rinse them with water and trim any excess skin that may have been left on. Season the thighs with kosher salt, sumac, baharat spice mix, lemon juice and half of the olive oil. Let the chicken marinate for an hour to overnight. In a roasting pan covered with foil, roast the thighs for about an hour at 400F. Caramelize yellow onions that have been julienned in the other half of the olive oil. Season with salt and sumac while sautéing the onions.
  • Now to assemble the Musakhan for the final roast before serving:
  • Dip each round of pita quickly on both sides in the drippings of the roasted chicken. Then place the pita on an oiled sheet tray, put a bit of the caramelized sumac onions on the inner circumference of the pita, allowing the outer ring of the pita to be exposed. Then place one of the chicken thighs on top of the onions. Roast again at 350F for 4 to 6 minutes. Finish with a pinch of sumac and toasted pine nuts out the oven. Enjoy!

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