Layered Chicken and Yogurt Casserole(Fatteh Djaj)
3 Pounds roasting chicken
2 1/2 Quarts water
1 Tablespoon black peppercorns
2 Inch cinnamon stick
1/4 Teaspoon cloves
1 Medium onion -- coarsely chopped
2 Large Sprigs fresh thyme
2 Cups plain yogurt
1 Cup long-grain white rice
4 Cloves garlic -- finely chopped
juice of one lemon 1 1/2 Teaspoons salt
4 Cups toasted pita
3/4 Cup mixed flat-leaf parsley and fresh mint -- finely
chopped 3 Tablespoons pine nuts -- dry-roasted
2 Tablespoons unsalted pistachios -- coarsely chopped
Wash the chicken. Pull off the skin and trim off excess fat.
Place the cold water and chicken in a large soup pot. Add the peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves, onion, and thyme and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat and simmer gently, partially covered, for 1 hour. Remove from the heat.
Meanwhile place the yogurt in a sieve or colander lined with cheesecloth. Let drain over a bowl for 1 hour to thicken.
Remove the chicken from the broth with tongs, and place the chicken on a work surface. Let cool somewhat, then pull the chicken meat off the bones, shredding it into bite-size pieces. Discard the bones. Strain the broth and discard the solids. Pour 4 1/2 cups of the broth into a container and place the broth in the refrigerator to cool (If you are in a rush, you can skip this step and use the broth without defatting it). Set aside the remainder of the broth in the refrigerator or freezer for another use. (The recipe can be prepared ahead to this point and the chicken, broth, and yogurt stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours). Skim the fat off the surface of the cooled broth.
Rinse the rice thoroughly in cold water until the water runs clear, then drain well. Place in a saucepan with a tight-fitting lid and add 2 1/4 cups of the defatted broth. Bring to a vigorous boil, then cover, reduce the heat to very low, and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from heat.
Meantime, combine the remainder of the defatted broth, the chopped garlic, and lemon juice in a small saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Add 1 teaspoon of the salt and simmer for 5 minutes. (If you have refrigerated the chicken pieces, place them in the broth to rewarm). You are now ready to assemble the fatteh.
Assemble the fatteh on a large shallow serving dish or platter. Leave 1 cup of the toasted pits in triangle-shaped pieces and break up the rest into bite-sized pieces. Spread the broken pieces over the bottom of the dish and lean the triangles up agains the sites, or if using a platter, place around the edge. Pour two thirds of the garlic broth over the crumpled bread. Spoon on the rices, spreading it evenly, then distribute the chicken pieces evenly over the rice Pour the remainder of the broth over the chicken.
Mix together the yogurt and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and spread over the chicken. Scatter the chopped herbs over the yogurt, then sprinkle on the pine nuts and chopped pistachios. Alternatively, you can mix the chopped mint into the yogurt, leaving only the parsley and nuts as top dressing. Serve immediately.
"Flatbreads and Flavors" by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, 1995
Shared by Cathy Lee Lielausis, New Hampshire, USA