Musakhan is a very simple dish to prepare, that can definately be described as comfort food. For me, Musakhan means Grandma, roots, early childhood, and home. So for me it doesn't get any better.
Musakhan belongs to the Palestinian Cuisine, where originally it was prepared by peasants & farmers to kind of test and celebrate their produce - mainly Olive Oil. They say that a good Grade Olive Oil Musakhan can never cause heart burn. If it does, then the quality of Olive Oil isn't good. Also imprtant to Musakhan preparation is the quality of Summac, which lends a sour-like flavour.
Musakhan is usually made using 'Taboon Bread', a thick and bubbled bread that peasants used to prepare at home. The bread is supposed to be simple to prepare using the 'Traditional Oven' available at most houses back in the day. They also used to prepare it using their own home-raised hickens that used to run around their front yard (our modern translation is Free Range) :)
Nowadays, industrial bakeries prepare this bread, which people buy ready to eat. Although it is ideal to use Taboon Bread, it is not found everywhere; like here in Dubai it is hard to get hold of Taboon Bread, so you can substitute with 'Shrak Bread' a wafer thin bread, found in most supermarkets, and occasionally at lebanese markets. Shrak Bread is traditionally used with Mansaf as well.
For reparing the Chicken
You Need1 whole Chicken, Cut into 4 pieces
1 large onion, quartered
2 cloves garlic crushed
2 Bay Leaves
3 Whole Cloves
3 Cardamon Seeds, lightly crushed
5 Black Pepper Corns
Salt & Black Pepper
Juice of 1/2 lemon
For Preparing Musakhan
500g Onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup Summac
Salt & Black Pepper
1 cup Chicken Broth
1/4 cup Olive Oil
1/2 cup toasted Pine Nuts
4 Taboon bread rounds or Shrak bread
Start by Cooking the Chicken to make some broth as well. You can either roast the chicken, and collect the juices (which is my preferred way for preparing chicken for Musakhan) or you can use the same method for making chicken broth to get the broth and cook the chicken.
Here is how you can make the chicken broth,
Clean your chicken pieces, and rub them with lemon juice. Set aside. Sweat the onion, & Garlic in a drizzle of olive oil, until translucent bt not browned. Add chicken pieces, and stir. Add spices & Seasoning and stir all to coat. Top with water and cook till chicken is cooked through.
Remove from heat. Separate the meat from broth (reserving the broth). Place chicken pieces in a baking dish, brush tops with a little vegetable oil and set Aside
In a large pot, put 1/4 cup Olive oil and cook over medium heat stirring occasionally until the onions are tender, but not browned. Lower the heat if necessary. Add the Summac and stir to mix, then add broth. Cook till onions are cooked through (very soft, but not browned) and liquids have reduced by 1/2.
Meanwhile, add 1/3 cup of prepared onions to the Chicken pieces, and broil the chicken in a preheated oven till golden.
It is traditionally served by dipping full bread rounds in the onion oil, then pouring some of the onion mixture atop the bread - but you can cut your bread in any size you like. Dip the middle of the bread lightly in the Musakhan liquids, place rounds on serving platter and top with a large spoon of musakhan onions. Traditionally, the breads topped with onion are stacked on top of each other in a large serving platter, topped with the chicken pieces. But you can place each serving in guest's plate topped with chicken. Or you can place bread in one serving platter and chicken in another. It is really a matter of what you prefer and the feel you are going after. Once all done and stacked sprinkle the whole with some sumac and the toasted pine nuts.