In Levantine Cuisine, it is very common to create layered platters. From upside downs (maloubeh) to fattehs and everything in between, we are some people who are all for layered flavours. Layering is similar to staging. Where each aspect of the scene has its own character and complexities. Once all characters come together the final outcome is a medley of deeply flavoured goodness. Layering in that sense requires an artistic touch, and an ability to understand textures and flavours. It requires a certain creativity where you can taste the final outcome, way before you cook it. Because when you are using many ingredients, aromatics and sauces in any one dish, there is always a risk of flavours overpowering each other, or the risk of simply having too much! Therefore, I find fatteh to be at the top of food mastery in Levantine cuisine. If you can deliberate a platter of 3 or more layers in which at least 2 different sauces are present, while keeping the integrity of each ingredient and serving up an exquisitely delicious plate of food - that is not in anyway too much - then you have mastered cooking! That is what cooking is all about.
There are many types of "Fatteh" in Arabic cuisine, all of which are very different and equally succulent. Fatteh is usually served as an appetisers, although it can be had as a main dish on its own. Fatteh layers usually contain a type of carbs - such as bread, rice or pasta - while it can also contain both bread and rice in the same preparation. Then comes the proteins, pulses, chicken, or meat and nuts. The 2 most commonly used sauces in this preparation are tomato sauce, and a garlic-yoghurt sauce. However other sauces can be used. Some Fattehs rely on the use of vegetables for their flavour, such as Fattet Beitinjan & Fattet Hummus.
Here is a dish that looks appetising, tastes Divine and is very nutritious. When you make Fattet Djaj, you can rest assured that the whole family will enjoy it. What more can any one dish offer? Give it a try, you will be happy you did.
Fattet Djaj - Layered Chicken Platter
1 whole Chicken, roasted* (can also use chicken breast fillets if necessary, but not preferred)
3 pita bread rounds cut into bite size squares, deep fried till golden, set aside on paper towels to drain the oil
2 cups cooked rice (cook rice with chicken stock)
5 cloves garlic
1 clove garlic extra
1 Kg yoghurt
Salt & Black pepper to taste
1 cup toasted nuts (pine nuts, almonds & pistachio)
1 handful finely chopped parsley for garnish
TIP There are many recipes to roast chicken, for this recipe simply:
Rinse chicken, cleaning the insides, pat dry, rub with lemon and salt. Place on baking dish. Crush 5 cloves of garlic then rub chicken with crushed garlic. Top with a dash of balsamic vinegar, black pepper and all spice to taste. Drizzle with a little olive oil. add 1/2 cup water. Roast in 450 F oven for 45 minutes - 1 hour.
Baste the chicken with the pan juices every 15 minutes so to stay moist. Add water to the pan if it starts drying out. To know if it is done check the thighs they should run out of juices, and the meat should easily seperate from the bone. Or an instant meat thermometer, should register 165-170F, when inserted in the flesh between the thigh and the body cavity without touching the bone or the bottom of the pan.
Once done set aside and when cool enough to handle seperate the meat from the bones in fairly big pieces. discard the bones and set the meat aside. You can use the pan juices as stock to prepare the rice.
Prepare garlic-yoghurt sauce
Crush 1 clove garlic add to yoghurt with salt & black pepper to taste. Mix well. Set aside, or keep in the fridge, till ready to use.
For serving fatteh it is best to use a deep, clear glass serving platter so your guests can see the layers. To create the layers: Place the fried bread at the bottom of serving dish in 1 even layer. Top with cooked rice in another even layer. Top cooked rice with prepared garlic-yohgurt sauce, then top yoghurt with Chicken pieces, toasted nuts & sprinkle with finely chopped and parsley. Season with a sprinkle of freshly cracked black pepper.
Serve at room temperature.
TIP If you have leftover chicken even if not following the same recipe, you can still use it to prepare this dish. If you are pressed for time, this is a great dish to prepare really fast. You can always buy ready roasted chicken at days when you are racing against the clock and use it in preparing this dish.
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