Celebration Chicken with Sweet Potatoes + Dates by Julia Turshen

 David Loftus

David Loftus

I always knew I was in for a day of adventure and rebellion when my maternal grand-mother used to babysit back in Iran. My mother would take out a container of khoresh—stew—from the freezer and ask her to serve it with some rice for our lunch. But as soon as my parents left for work the khoresh would go right back in the freezer, and we’d go about setting and breaking our own rules. A quick boiled potato and egg smooshed on a piece of lavash or sangak bread, drizzled with plenty of olive oil, and sprinkled with dried mint for lunch was our little act of rebellion. This simple treat is regular street fare in Tabriz, my grandmother’s hometown. Years later and oceans away, this is still my preferred “fast food” lunch or dinner, always prepared with a twinkle of rebellion in my eye.


SERVES 8 to 10

INGREDIENTS

  • ¼ cup [60 ml] apple cider vinegar

  • ¼ cup [60 ml] olive oil

  • ¼ cup [60 ml] water

  • 8 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt

  • 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

  • Two 3- to 4-lb [1.4- to 1.8-kg] chickens, each cut into 10 pieces (2 wings, 2 legs, 2 thighs, and 2 breasts cut in half across the bone), backbone discarded (or saved for another use, like stock), at room temperature

  • 3 large sweet potatoes, about 2 lb [910 g] total, unpeeled, scrubbed and cut into bite-size pieces

  • 12 large dried dates (preferably Medjool), halved and pitted

  • A small handful of chopped fresh soft herbs (cilantro, parsley, dill, and/or chives all work well)

Preheat your oven to 425°F [220°C].

In a large roasting pan, whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, water, garlic, salt, and pepper (you want a pan that’s big enough to hold all of the chicken pieces in a single layer; a disposable aluminum pan is good for this if your roasting pan isn’t large enough). Add the chicken pieces, sweet potatoes, and dates. Use your hands to mix everything together and get the marinade on all of chicken, sweet potatoes, and dates. Warning: the following is a bit messy, but bear with me. Move everything around so the sweet potatoes and dates are in a single layer on the bottom of the pan and the chicken pieces, skin-side up, are in a single, even layer on top.

Roast until the sweet potatoes are tender (test with a fork or a paring knife) and the chicken pieces are firm to the touch and their exposed skin is nicely browned, about 1 hour. Let the chicken rest at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before serving.

To serve, transfer the chicken, sweet potatoes, and dates to a large serving platter and pour all of the cooking juices over the top (or serve directly from the roasting pan, giving everything a little mix first). Sprinkle with the herbs and serve warm.


CORONATION CHICKEN SALAD

Shred whatever chicken you have left (discard the skin and bones) and roughly chop the leftover sweet potatoes and dates. Put all of that into a bowl, sprinkle with a generous amount of curry powder, and add a large spoonful of mango chutney (or apricot jam, or just leave it out if you’ve got enough sweet dates) and stir to mix. Add just enough mayonnaise (or plain Greek yogurt) to bind everything together and season to taste with salt and pepper. Fold in some thinly sliced scallions and, if you’d like a bit of crunch, some chopped roasted almonds. Serve on toast or in lettuce cups.

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Reprinted from Now & Again by Julia Turshen with permission by Chronicle Books, 2018


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