As anyone who has cooked the chicken sheet-pan recipes from Sami’s previous cookbooks—Ottolenghi: The Cookbook and Jerusalem—knows, the secret weapon behind so many (seemingly) effortless dinners is a make-ahead chicken dish that can just be put into the oven when needed. All the work is done in advance, which means that at dinnertime there is little fuss, and happy feasting. It’s a complete winner every time.
Ingredients note: We tend to start with a whole chicken (so that chicken stock can be made from the carcass), but it’s absolutely fine, of course, to start with chicken breasts, with the wing-tips left on, or legs, if you prefer.
- Cut 2 of the lemons into ¼-inch/6mm-thick slices and place in a large mixing bowl. Finely grate the zest of the remaining lemon (to get 1½ tsp of zest) and set this aside for later. Squeeze the same lemon to get about 1½ tbsp of juice and add this to the mixing bowl along with the chicken, onions, garlic, sumac, allspice, 2 tbsp of za’atar, 2 tbsp of oil, the stock, 1½ tsp of salt, and a good grind of black pepper. Mix well to combine, then cover with a large plate and let marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours (or overnight, if you have time).
- Half an hour or an hour before baking, take the chicken out of the fridge; it should be at room temperature before going into the oven.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Transfer the chicken to a large rimmed baking sheet, skin side up, and pour on all the marinade and lemon slices. Drizzle the chicken with 1 tbsp of oil and bake for about 45 minutes, giving everything a bit of a stir halfway through, until the chicken is golden and cooked through and the onions have taken on some color.
- Toward the end of the cooking time for the chicken, combine the parsley, lemon zest, remaining 2 tbsp of za’atar, and remaining 3 tbsp of olive oil in a bowl.
- Transfer the chicken to a serving platter along with the lemon slices and any juices that have collected at the bottom of the pan. Some people will love to eat the lemon slices and others won’t. Either way, serve them up with the chicken—they look great.
- Spoon the parsley mixture on the chicken, finish with the almonds, and serve.
Reprinted with permission from Falastin: A Cookbook by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley, copyright © 2020. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Photography credit: Jenny Zarins © 2020