This is not your normal roast chicken. I don’t know about you, but I find that 90% of the time roast chicken is boring and bland, and the other 10% of the time it is so salty and fatty I can’t enjoy it because I can feel my arteries clogging. Sumac and thyme chicken with a pomegranate and honey glaze was tender, moist and unbelievably tasty. Plus it was an easy. I’ll admit, I’m often a little scared of chicken because the line between salmonella and over-cooked leather can be fine, but this was just scrumptious.
Sumac is a Middle Eastern spice made from dried, ground berries. It has a citrusy/berry/earthy flavour which was really, really good with chicken. You are most likely to find sumac in shops that stock other Middle Eastern foods (and you’ll be looking for pomegranate molasses for this recipe while you’re there). If you can’t find it, you could substitute a sweet/mild paprika, or in Australia, dried, ground bush tomato.
Sumac and thyme are the key spices in za’atar, and thyme and chicken are good together, so thyme and sumac seemed like a good flavour local from which to start. Then, given my current obsession with pomegranate, who could go past adding another citrusy layer to the flavours, and to top it off, I shoved a lemon in the cavity while it roasted.
Sumac and Thyme Chicken with Pomegranate Glaze
serves 6, 20 minutes preparation and 2 hours cooking
1 good sized organic or free range chicken (about 2kg which is 4 pounds)
2tbs of fresh thyme leaves
2tsp sumac, ground
1 and 1/2 tsp of salt
100g butter, slightly softened
1/4 cup of pomegranate molasses
1 tbs of honey
To get the flavour into the chicken, mix the sumac, thyme and salt into the butter.
Prepare your chicken by removing any big flappy bits of fatty skin and then gently loosening the skin over the breast meat to make a pocket between the skin and the meat.
Make little patties of the butter mixture and slide it under the skin near the breast meat, the thighs, drumsticks and along the back. Let you chicken rest to absorb some flavour. I left mine for only 2 hours because that is all the time I had, but you could leave it overnight.
15 minutes before you are ready to roast, preheat your oven and boil the lemon for about 5 minutes, then, being careful not to burn yourself stab it a few times and then shove it in the chicken cavity. I had also put the stripped thyme stalks in the cavity for even more flavour. If necessary, tie the drumsticks together with cooking twine to hold the lemon in.
Roast the chicken at 210 degrees Celsius (425 Fahrenheit), breast side up, for about 20 minutes. Then turn it over for another 20 minutes. At this point, mix the honey and pomegranate molasses together, turn the chicken back breast side up and cover the chicken in the pomegranate mix. Continue cooking at 200 degrees for a further hour basting once or twice. The chicken is cooked when the juices run clear if you stab the meat.
Rest the chicken covered in foil for about 20-30 minutes while you prepare the sides. Serve the chicken with the juices from the pan as a sauce. You can pour off some of the fat, but the dark liquid under the fat is the most amazing, flavourful sauce that should be absorbed by the sumac couscous.