When I lived in Washington, there was this local chain, Lebanese Taverna
, that had this one amazing dish…consisting of either chicken, lamb, or eggplant, served with yogurt, chickpeas, pomegranates, and tons of garlic. It was to die for.
There is no Lebanese Taverna in Berkeley, and I had a craving. Through the magic of the internets, I was able to hunt down a recipe for this dish. The recipe I used was posted by a poster on the Chowhound boards
. I improvised a little, so I’ll try to describe it the way I did it. And while I used a whole chicken as the recipe suggested, next time I will just use boneless chicken pieces, which will make preparing this a lot easier. Or perhaps I’ll try lamb or a vegetarian version with eggplant.
While not exactly like Lebanese Taverna’s, this version was still really, really good. I’ll definitely make this again.
Fatteh Bel Djaje
For chicken and broth:
1 chicken, quartered (or 2-2.5 pounds or so of boneless chicken pieces)
1/2 lemon, cut into quarters (I used half an orange)
1 Tb ground cinnamon
1 tb salt
2 cups water (I needed a little more water to cover everything in the pot)
1 onion with 3 cloves stuck in it
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 stick cinnamon
2 bay leaves
1 large can chickpeas
1 quart plain yogurt (i use labneh or the thick greek yogurt, they work best)
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup mints leaves, torn
1 cup pine nuts
3 Tb butter
2 pita breads cut into 1 inch squares
1/2 a pomegranate (if available)
Rice or couscous, for serving, if you want.
First, mix the yogurt with garlic and a pinch of salt and let it sit for at least 15 minutes. I’d keep it out of the fridge so it can come to room temperature.
Brown the chicken in a large large dutch oven or stockpot. Add lemon or orange, ground cinnamon, salt, water, onion with cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon stick and bay leaves. If you are using boneless chicken in small chunks, you can probably just leave it on the stove to to simmer. If you are using bigger pieces with the bone in, bring the water to a boil and put it in a 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes, depending on how big the pieces are.
Once the chicken is cooked, remove it from the broth. Let it cool if you need to debone it. Strain and skim broth, pour over chickpeas and cook for 15-20 minutes. I reserved a little bit of broth and poured it back over the deboned chicken, covered it, and simmered on very low heat to keep it warm.
Cook the rice or couscous, if you are using it. (I used basmati rice, which works well with this.)
Fry pine nuts in 1 tb butter until brown.
Set them aside and fry the pita cubes in remaining butter until crisp.
Put rice or couscous in a shallow bowl. Top with chicken, chickpeas and a couple tablespoons of broth, and the yogurt mixture. Sprinkle the pine nuts, pita, mint, and pomegranate on top.
And convince people that despite the odd ingredient list, it is actually an incredibly delicious meal. The pomegranate seeds add sweetness, the pine nuts and pita are crunchy, the mint makes it fresh and bright, and all of them compliment the spicy chicken and garlicky yogurt beautifully.