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One New Med Recipe: Lebanese Mussakhan

April 22, 2011

With Sara in Lebanon for the week, we are taking One New Med Recipe to the streets of Beirut, where the roots of the Med Diet run deep.

One of the many wonderful aspects of traditional Lebanese food is how much variety exists within any one dish. Hummus is a perfect example. The combination of chick peas and Tahini creates a perfect base to build from. Other core Lebanese ingredients, like onions, potatoes, lamb, couscous, and a myriad of regional spices lend themselves beautifully to interpretation. Better yet, nearly all Lebanese meals are as simple to prepare as they are delicious to eat, a testament to the longevity of this cuisine and the Med Diet as a whole.

Mussakhan is no exception. Literally meaning “something that is heated,” this signature poultry-and-flatbread meal is widely popular throughout Lebanon. We borrowed the below version from Joumana Accad, a Lebanese transplant living in Dallas, TX who celebrates Lebanese cooking on her website, Taste of Beirut. Joumana had the brilliant idea of substituting mussakhan’s usual chicken breast base with a cornish game hen, which she then encases in markouk bread. The result is an intoxicating blend of tender meat, caramelized onions, and aromatic spices. For side greens, we have offered our own addition of sautéed spinach, another Lebanese staple.

Note: Traditionally, mussakhan is eaten with the fingers, a custom that speaks to the intimate feel of this savory dish. This, of course, is subject to variation as well, depending on whom you may be sharing the meal with!

– Casey and Matt

Ingredients

1 lemon
1 1/2 teaspoon seven-spice, or a mixture of cinnamon, allspice and pepper to substitute
1 Cornish hen
1 1/2 water
2 cloves fresh garlic
1 large white onion
3 tablespoons of sumac, or lemon zest and salt to substitute
1 large piece of markouk, lavash, flatbread, or pita bread
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups fresh whole spinach leaves

Preparation

1. Rub the hen(s) with a cut lemon and sprinkle the seven-spice evenly on the top and underside of the bird. If there is time, refrigerate and let marinate for at least 30 minutes. Place hen into an oiled pot and heat over low-medium heat until golden-brown on both sides. Add water and let simmer for 20 minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 350°F. While it is warming, slices onions into rings and pan-fry in an oiled skillet with garlic. As onions caramelize, sprinkle sumac and salt, if desired.

3. On a greased pan, lay a large piece of markouk and place browned hen in the middle. Surround and cover with half of the caramelized onions, leaving the other half in the skillet on a low simmer. Fold the markouk up to encase the hen. Gently ladle broth on and around hen to make bread stick to the meat. Place the hen into the oven and back for about 20 minutes, or until the bread is golden-brown.

4. While hen is cooking, add spinach leaves with the caramelized onions and raise heat to medium for 10-15 minutes. Season with pepper and salt, if so desired. Serve together with hen on a platter.

Note: This recipe is for 1-2 people, depending on the size of the hen, and appetites of the people!

Adapted from recipe by Joumana Accad, from Tastes of Beirut.

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