So many food blogs seem to have a theme: Baking, healthy eating, gluten-free, paleo, food on a budget. And then there’s this blog: Dating, divorce, and what I cooked when I discovered I’d bought too much of something. Though the three elements don’t seem to add up to a unified theme, they actually do.
This is what someone did when things didn’t go as expected – in life, and in the kitchen.
A while back, I made Yotam Ottolenghi’s Slow-Cooked Chick Peas on Toast recipe, which called for za’atar, something I’d never heard of and certainly didn’t have. It wasn’t at my usual supermarket, either. To avoid a lengthy hunt, I ordered it from Amazon. If I’d found it in a store, I probably would have grabbed whatever jar had the prettiest label or the best price relative to the other jars on the shelf. Online shopping is a little different, though: It’s all about price plus shipping cost, and more to the point, getting the purchase to the point where there is no shipping cost. This usually entails getting the price of the item above a certain amount; once that happens, you can kick back and say, instead of paying for shipping, I got more stuff.
This is how I ended up with a pound of za’atar, when what I needed was a pinch of za’atar, for a recipe that I ended up omitting za’atar from anyway.
If I made Slow-Roasted Chick Peas on Toast every day for a year, even if I used a generous pinch of za’atar, I’m pretty sure I would still have too much.
I saw a recipe in another Ottolenghi cookbook for Roast Chicken with Za’atar, which sounds awfully good, but that recipe also calls for sumac, and given my current za’atar predicament, I’m reluctant to add another jar of infrequently used spice to my collection. Then I located a recipe on Sunset that sounded good, didn’t require any additional trips to the store, and as an added bonus, called for a full quarter-cup of za’atar.
Suddenly, there’s a chance that all this za’atar will get used, rather than expire in my pantry. I’m in.
I almost walked away from the recipe: Users who left ratings gave it a whopping one star our of five – an inauspicious sign. When I read the reviews, though, it turned out there was only one, left by someone who had clearly not read the recipe. The complaint was this: if you cook the chicken at 475 degrees as directed, the coating would scorch and smell up your house.
I don’t disagree. The oil would smoke and smell foul if you did it that way, a fact the recipe author also notes when directing the user to roast the chicken at 400 degrees if it is coated with the oil-and-spice mixture.
Armed with this knowledge, I tried the recipe, and it worked.
In fact, it didn’t just work – it was delicious, and made my house smell like yum. I ended up cooking the bird a bit longer than called for – about an hour and a half – due to its large size. I also turned it over a couple of times during the roasting, to let the skin get crispy all over and help the bird stay moist (it’s a technique I learned from an Alice Waters recipe that always results in a delicious chicken).
I tossed in some potatoes towards the end, and let them soak up all the delicious accumulated juices.
I hope to find some more ways to use up the za’atar, but if I end up making this chicken a dozen more times, it won’t be a hardship.
- ¼ cup zaatar
- 2½ tbsp olive oil
- 2½ tbsp lemon juice
- 2½ tsp minced garlic
- ¾ tsp pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- A roasting chicken
- Whisk together zaatar, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper.
- Rinse chicken and pat dry. Smear the paste all over the outside of the chicken, and under the skin where you can. Use it all up! Let chicken sit at room temperature for a half hour.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Roast chicken uncovered, breast side up, for 20 minutes, then flip it over so the breast side is down for the next 20 minutes. Then flip chicken a final time, so that the breast side is up again. Roast until the skin is crispy and the bird registers 160 on a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast.
- Let chicken stand 10-15 minutes, then carve and serve.