While a lot of recipes I usually post in this collection are somewhat spread out through the Middle East in appeal, this dish is particularly native to the Palestinian people of the West Bank region. The name 'msakhkhan' simply translates into 'heated food', but strangely enough only ever really refers to this dish.
Growing up, I remember my mother continuously making this for us on days she wanted to be able to whip up something quick and delicious. Its ingredients are really easy to purchase, except maybe sumac, which you might need to go to an Arabic supermarket for or order online. (Although the last time I purchased sumac, I was able to find it in the international aisle of the supermarket next to a lot of Greek/Arabic/Jewish items.)
Msakhkhan (Sumac Chicken)
2 whole chicken, about 2 lb each
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
3 medium red onions, sliced
3 teaspoons sumac
2 round flatbread or 2 pita breads, plain
1. Wash then wipe the chickens dry with paper towels.
2. Rub them inside and out with salt and pepper, then tuck and tie the wings under the body.
3. Heat half the oil in a large skillet and fry the chickens one at a time until lightly browned all over, turning often, then set aside.
4. Add remaining oil to the pan and saute the onion, stirring, until clear.
5. Sprinkle the sumak over the onion, cooking another 2 minutes.
6. Remove from heat.
7. Split each flatbread or pita bread in half, making 4 halves.
8. Place two slightly overlapping in the base of a baking dish large enough to hold both chickens.
9. Place a mound of onion in the center of each, using about a quarter of the onion mix only, and place a chicken on top of each, and spread remaining onion mix over the chicken evenly.
10. Pour the oil from the pan over the chicken, then cover with remaining bread, making sure to tuck it around the chicken as best as you can. (This bread covering is what keeps the chicken very moist and flavorful.)
11. Bake in moderate oven (about 350) for 1 1/2 hours or until chickens are cooked through and tender.
12. If the bread browns too much or begins to burn, you can place a piece of foil over the tops to avoid this.
13. Serve cut into portions with some of the bread if you wish.