Milk Street Everyday Middle Eastern Cooking (Ep 404)
Palestinian Upside-Down Chicken and Rice (Maqlubeh)
Start to finish: 2 hours (30 minutes active), plus resting
Maqlubeh translates from the Arabic as “upside down,” which describes how this traditional multilayered rice dish is served. Though our streamlined recipe still requires a small investment in ingredients and prep, the work mostly is front-loaded and produces a one-pot dish impressive enough for a special occasion. For proper cooking, it’s important to use a pot 9½ to 11 inches in diameter and 4 to 6 inches deep. After searing and removing the chicken, we line the bottom of the pot with a parchment round to guarantee that the rice, which forms a crisp, browned bottom layer, does not stick when the pot is inverted for serving. If you prefer, you can serve directly from the pot, but we still recommend lining the bottom of the pot with parchment. The classic accompaniment for maqlubeh is a tomato, cucumber and yogurt salad.
Don’t forget to soak and rinse the rice. This helps the grains cook up light and separate.
- 2 cups basmati rice
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
- 1½ pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, trimmed
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- ⅓ cup slivered almonds
- 8 ounces cauliflower florets (1-inch pieces)
- 8 medium garlic cloves, chopped
- 4 tablespoons (½ stick) salted butter, melted
- 4 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon ground allspice
- 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 8 ounces eggplant (½ medium), sliced into ¼-inch-thick rounds
- 1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
In a large bowl, combine the rice and 2 tablespoons salt. Add water to cover by 1 inch, then set aside. Have ready a lidded pot that measures 9½ to 11 inches in diameter and 4 to 6 inches deep. Cut 2 rounds of kitchen parchment the same diameter as the pot.
Season the chicken all over with salt and pepper. Set the pot over medium and heat 1 tablespoon of the oil until shimmering. Add the chicken skin down and cook until browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Remove the pot from heat. Place 1 parchment round on the bottom, then turn to coat it with fat.
Add the remaining 3 tablespoons oil to the parchment-lined pot, then sprinkle evenly with the almonds. Drain the rice in a fine mesh strainer, then rinse under cool running water and drain again. Scatter 1 cup of the rice in a thin, even layer over the almonds. In a medium bowl, mix the remaining rice with the cauliflower, garlic, butter, cumin, allspice, turmeric, nutmeg and 1¾ teaspoons each salt and pepper. Reserve ½ cup of this mixture, then distribute the remainder in an even layer in the pot.
Place the chicken in the pot, slightly nestling the pieces into the rice-cauliflower layer; discard any accumulated juices. Shingle the eggplant slices over the chicken in an even layer. Sprinkle with the reserved ½ cup rice.
Pour the broth into the pot (it will not fully cover the eggplant), then bring to a boil over medium-high. Lay the second parchment round against the surface of the pot’s contents, then cover with the lid. Cook for 5 minutes, reduce to low and cook, undisturbed, for 35 minutes.
Remove the pot from the heat, uncover and let stand for 15 minutes. Remove the parchment, then invert a serving platter onto the pot. Holding the platter against the pot, carefully invert the two together; leave the pot overturned on the platter and let rest for about 10 minutes. Slowly lift off the pot and, if needed, remove and discard the parchment.
Start to finish: 4¼ hours (30 minutes active)| Servings: 16 to 18
The start-to-finish time is long, but this tender- crumbed, syrup-soaked cake is simple to make and requires little hands-on effort. We toast the semolina, coconut and cornmeal to heighten the flavors and aromas, then after cooling, we allow them to hydrate in a mixture of yogurt, tahini and water. This results in a uniformly moist, evenly textured crumb. Because it is soaked with syrup, the cake keeps well, so it can be made in advance. Tightly covered, it will keep for a day at room temperature; after that, store it in the refrigerate for up to two more days, but bring to room temperature before serving.
Don’t add the yogurt to the toasted semolina- coconut mixture until the mixture has cooled for about 30 minutes. If added when hot, the semolina quickly absorbs the yogurt and the cake bakes up with a crumbly texture. Also, don’t allow the cake to cool for more than 10 minutes before pouring on the syrup; the crumb soaks up the syrup more readily and more evenly when warm.
- 6 tablespoons (¾ stick) salted butter, cut into 6 pieces, plus more for the pan
- 170 grams (1 cup) semolina flour
- 68 grams (¾ cup) unsweetened shredded coconut
- 72 grams (½ cup) fine yellow cornmeal
- 321 grams (1½ cups) white sugar, divided
- 84 grams (¼ cup) honey
- Four 3-inch strips lemon zest, plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1¼ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
- 454 grams (2 cups) plain whole-milk yogurt
- 30 grams (2 tablespoons) tahini
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 35 grams (¼ cup) raw sesame seeds
- 2 teaspoons orange flower water (optional)
INSTRUCTIONS In a 12-inch skillet over medium, melt the butter. Add the semolina, coconut and cornmeal, then cook, stirring often, until the mixture begins to brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and cool until barely warm to the touch, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine 214 grams (1 cup) of the sugar, the honey, lemon zest, ¼ teaspoon salt and ½ cup water. Bring to a boil over medium, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then cook until slightly more viscous, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a 2-cup liquid measuring cup or small bowl; you should have about 1¼ cups. Cover and set aside until ready to use.
Heat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle position. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch square baking pan. To the cooled semolina mixture, whisk in the yogurt, tahini and ½ cup water. Let stand at room temperature for another 30 minutes to hydrate.
In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 107 grams (½ cup) sugar, the remaining 1 teaspoon salt, the baking soda and baking powder. Whisk the mixture into the semolina-yogurt mixture. Transfer to the prepared pan and spread into an even layer. Sprinkle the sesame seeds evenly over the surface and bake until golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
Remove and discard the lemon zest from the syrup, then stir in the lemon juice and orange flower water (if using). With a toothpick, poke holes in the warm cake at 1-inch intervals. Slowly and evenly pour on the syrup. Let stand for 2 hours. To serve, cut into pieces directly in the pan.
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