We’ve been lucky enough to have access to all sorts of interesting flavors through the bulk spices section of our local Co-Op grocery. Since it is on our way home from work, we can brainstorm a recipe idea and make a quick stop to pick up any last minute ingredients. I’ve been cooking chicken with the same flavors for a while, so we went in to pick up some unusual spices: za’atar and sumac. Za’atar recipes are common on the web, but it’s helpful to know that za’atar is actually a generic name for a group of Middle Eastern herbs most similar to oregano and thyme. It’s also a premixed spice blend which typically contains sumac, sesame seeds, and a few herbs. Buying dried za’atar for this meal will give you an earthy, herbaceous flavor and allow you to start cooking with it right away. Sumac is a small, red, acidic berry. I didn’t think our locally available za’atar mix had enough sumac in it, so I added a generous amount to the recipe.

Our preference is to buy meat, especially chicken, the same day that we plan on cooking it. This ensures that it is fresh and we don’t have to worry about storing it in with our other food. We only eat meat a few times per week, it’s an easy habit to stay in. We bought chicken at Whole Foods for a few months, but we could never get the texture to come out the way we expected. As soon as we started buying it from the Co-Op, we’ve never gone wrong again. If you’re in the Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio region, see if your local grocer carries Miller Amish Country Poultry. The quality of the organic meat is outstanding.


Za’atar Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast or 1.5 pounds split chicken breast
  • 2 large pinches of coarse salt. Make sure to use a salt type that you enjoy chewing. I prefer a coarse ground sea or Himalayan salt on chicken for the texture.
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 4 large pinches dried za’atar or substitute 3 large pinches oregano and 1 pinch sesame seeds
  • 1 large pinch sumac
  • 1 large pinch ground coriander seed

Directions:

  1. This mediterranean inspired chicken is painfully easy to cook (you can tell because I cook it.) Heat a tablespoon of oil over a medium heat in a large, heavy skillet.
  2. Meanwhile, liberally coat each side of chicken in coarse salt, ground pepper, sumac, and coriander seed. Cover each breast entirely with za’atar. You can spread it on pretty thickly, or lightly cover it. Your tolerance for seasoning should guide you because these are strong flavors. If you’re nervous try to spread it so you can barely see the chicken through the seasoning.
  3. Now that the oil is hot and the chicken is seasoned, add it to the pan immediately covering. I don’t have a lid for my cast iron pan, so I cover it with a full sheet pan.
  4. Walk away for six minutes, then flip.
  5. Recover, cook for six minutes, and bring to a medium high heat. Depending on the thickness of your chicken, cook covered at even intervals until done. I was able to cook four minutes per side. Measure with a thermometer or cut to check. The chicken should be fully cooked, but still tender and juicy. Serve after allowing to rest briefly.

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