Friday, January 9, 2015

Maqluba With Chicken, Cauliflower and Carrot مقلوبة دجاج وزهرة وجزر

So this is a very traditional, and very delicious dish from the Arab Levant. It is called "maqluba" which means "flipped over" due to the very last step of flipping the pot onto a serving platter. I always laugh because instead of being chicken on rice, it's rice on chicken until that last step, and so a totally different dish than the chicken on rice that's eaten most of the time.

There are a variety of typical styles of this dish. The style here is with chicken, cauliflower ('zahra' in Jordanian Arabic) and carrots, also optionally featuring potatoes. Meat and eggplant is another style, featured here.  Another tradition style, especially in spring or early summer is with fresh fava beans and meat (here's a recipe in English).

Ingredients:
2-3 pounds chicken (whatever cuts you want)

1 large cauliflower, cut into florets
3-4 carrots, cut into large chunks (I do this by cutting at a diagonal to the carrot)
3 medium waxy potatoes, diced (optional)

2.5 cups white short grained or jasmine rice, rinsed
Water or chicken broth (approx 4 cups)

2 tsp Arabic spice mix (buy, or see below)
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
3-4 Tbsp salt
Oil for cooking

You also need a deep, heavy bottomed pot and a large serving platter or pizza pan.

Preparation:
The veggies are traditionally fried, but I hate frying cause it's a pain, and luckily I live in American where we have ovens. So, preheat oven to 450 or use broiler, chop veggies. Coat veggies in a bit of olive oil, add about 1/2 tsp of the spice mix and some salt. Roast about 10 minutes - you want them getting a bit crispy around the edges, but not totally cooked into submission. You can skip this step if you prefer but you'll lose some flavor- you might want to put the potatoes in the microwave for about 3 minutes though.

In a large, deep heavy bottomed pot (I use my pressure cooker), heat about 1 Tbsp oil. Sprinkle chicken parts with some of the spice mix and brown. Toss in the bay leaf and cinnamon stick. Add all of the veggies above the chicken in a layer. Add remaining spice mix and salt. Then, add the rice as a final layer. Use the back of your hand to push the rice into any crevices so it makes a smooth layer.

Add water or chicken broth to just cover the rice (it should be covered though). Bring to a boil, then cover and cook for 20-30 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.

Once cooking is finished, wait a few minutes for everything to stick together a bit better. Loosen from the sides of the pot using a butter knife. Put your serving platter over the top of the pan and invert the pan. Carefully remove the pan - if you're lucky, it'll retain its shape and you'll have an elegant column of deliciousness with a chicken and cauliflower capital.

Serve alone, or with a side salad if you like.

Here's a fuzzy picture. Mine did NOT retain its shape.


Arabic Spice Mix:
I've taken to making my spice mix every time I make Middle Eastern foods which calls for it, which isn't that often, so it's fresher this way - the allspice especially benefits from being ground fresh. The following should make about enough for this recipe - you can make more if you like and save it. You can also purchase it from Middle Eastern grocery stores - it's often called 'baharat' which literally just means 'spices.'

Grind the following in a mortar and pestle:
1 tsp whole allspice
3-4 whole cloves

Mix the freshly ground spices with:
1/2 tsp ground cumin (unless you have a spice grinder, it's not worth trying to get this sufficiently ground in a mortar and pestle)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp (freshly) ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground white pepper
1/8 tsp nutmeg
Dash cayenne

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