Christmas 2016 was one for the books and it wasn’t because of the gifts, nor bustling around from house to house. This year we elected to visit with family before Christmas day and then spend the day itself in our home – just the three of us (My husband wouldn’t approve of me counting the dog as #4. ha ha) Since we would be celebrating in our home, I decided to cook a Middle Eastern dish as opposed to the large American Christmas Day feast. This is a small piece of what our multi-cultural Christmas Day looked like.
We awoke when Little One began stirring (No need to wake up earlier when the child is this young – thank goodness!). We headed downstairs and I began to cook breakfast. As a little hey-I-love-you to my husband, I tried to cook a dish the way he does (Though his skills will always win out!) I made eggs (Think omelet minus everything, but the eggs.) and curried tomatoes, served with yogurt and fresh fruit. We then ventured out to the living room where presents were sitting with our stockings. Little One was given a wooden chicken pull toy and some socks. My husband gifted me with an assortment of bath products (No, he’s not suggesting motherhood’s limited showers are creating an odd smell…he simply knows I prefer practical gifts. Smart man.). Meanwhile, since Habibi is not into receiving gifts, I gave him some snacks for work and a special white envelope (If you never heard the story of the original idea, here is a link that tells that family’s story). Then, the special meal of the day began. It is called Dijaj Mahshu; translated Chicken or Turkey Stuffed with Rice (Very different from the American breaded stuffing inside of a bird.)
Actually, it began the night before since I had to brine the chicken. I never heard of this technique before, but I gave it a shot. The recipe comes from a cookbook I mentioned before titled Delights from the Garden of Eden by Nawal Nasrallah. I had to soak the chicken in water with salt and sugar. After that, I had to rinse and dry the bird (Due to the raw meat in my hands, there’s no photo of this step.) Next, I rubbed in lemon juice and an assortment of spices and seasonings (See recipe below.)
As the chicken soaked in those spices, I began the stuffing. This process included sautéing vegetables with a variety of spices.
While the vegetables were softening, I prepared the browned potatoes and basmati rice (I’ve fallen in love with this type of rice!)
Once those were ready, they were added to the vegetable mixture, along with more spices. The rice stuffing was then placed into the bird, while some was reserved for plating (Again, there is no picture since my hands were full of raw chicken. Yuck!)
One of the ingredients was prepared noomi Basrah which is dried lime that I then had to grind into fine pieces. I find this ingredient listed in many recipes within this book; however, I didn’t buy it until recently so I have previously just added some lime juice. Apparently the noomi Basrah has a unique flavor that I do not recognize within a dish because my husband noticed that I had included it in this meal. Interesting how individualized our pallets are designed.
Once again, spices were added to the outside of the chicken before it entered the magical oven.
Before the chicken began to cook, the recipe called for coating the top with plain yogurt. I never heard of this before, but I did it anyways. It is hard to see in this picture, but the yogurt is there and I believe it made a real difference in the skin once the chicken was cooked.
After hours and hours of baking, the chicken was ready to be plated. I was so excited for this presentation that I even made some of my husband’s beloved bread (The non-fake kind. Ha ha).
I had to add this picture in. Typically, at our family’s holiday meals, the meat will be carved, or sliced, with an electric knife. My husband’s family has a quicker approach. They take kitchen scissors and cut the meat into pieces. This is what the deconstructed chicken looked like. And I cannot end this post without saying how amazingly moist this chicken was!!! Like none I ever had. I am not sure if it was the yogurt, or the brining, or something else – but it was magical! I truly need to investigate that further.
And that concludes our multi-cultural Christmas. Hopefully as the years progress, Little One will have elements of both of his cultures spread throughout the memories.
Ahmeli… that we enjoy learning about different cultures as we journey through 2017.
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