I always get so excited for Spring. Around mid Winter, I start channeling a rural farmer and dreams of planting fruit trees like pomegranates and mulberries take me all around my backyard and back to the sofa. Every year around this time, I buy seeds and set out to planting them and then the city slicker that I am, I usually forget. My husband always walks in the house with flowers or a flowering plant. He surprises a few times remembering the type of flowers that I like, especially Hyacinth and Tulips. I believe that several of these lovely bulbs are growing around the “tiny” (it just doesn’t want to grow!!) tree that he brought back with him from a Florida trip. If you sense my surprise in that previous statement, you are correct! I am utterly surprised by the peaking bulbs (you can see some of them in the picture above), mainly because I don’t remember what year I dug a hole and stuck the dead plant bulbs in there. And to make it even more exciting, I don’t know yet whether they are tulips or hyacinths (yes, you can laugh out loud). AND on top of that, you see the middle photo? Yeah I stuck that baby upside down, and found it a few days ago trying to make its way to the light!!! Poor little thing, I hope he survives.
Now to the business at hand. This is actually my go-to recipe when I lose all culinary inspiration or have very little time to cook dinner. And I think every Lebanese household would share my enthusiasm when I say that it is the most tasty chicken you will have, especially with a generous serving of the “very” garlicky garlic sauce and a salad of course.
You can also make the herb mix in larger quantity and keep it handy for next time you make the recipe. It stores great for six months in the pantry.
For the chicken, you can use a whole chicken, a cut up chicken, drumsticks, breasts or whatever you like. I personally like to use cuts of chicken with bone in, it seems to keep the chicken moist. To prep the chicken, just sprinkle salt and pepper generously, then herb mix and some olive oil and massage the herb mix all around to cover well. If you’re using potatoes, do the same as well. Squeeze a lemon on top, cover and roast until done (times will differ depending on the size of the chicken) anywhere between 30 minutes to one hour.
For the garlic sauce, place the peeled garlic cloves, salt and lemon juice in the food processor and grind until it turns to paste. Clean sides, add a tablespoon of olive oil and process. While the machine is on, slowly drizzle the rest of the oil and keep running until the garlic turns into a fluffy paste. Disclaimer: this garlic sauce is very potent and might possibly chase away your neighbors. If you prefer a milder version, add a 1/4 cup of baked potato with the skin removed.
As a sandwich, a very popular one at that and usually found as street food in Beirut, pull the chicken and set aside. Using a large thin pita bread, spread the garlic sauce as the base, place the pulled chicken, top with pickled Armenian cucumber, pickled turnips, press on a sandwich press or grill and enjoy.
Chicken Herb Mix
2 tbsp basil, dry
2 tbsp marjoram, dry
2 tbsp sumac
1 tbsp fennel, crushed
1 tsp chili pepper
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp mustard seeds, crushed
2 oz garlic cloves, peeled
1/8 cup lemon juice, fresh
3/4 cup olive oil
3/4 tsp sea salt