There is a chicken carcass simmering in a pot of water on my stove and my house smells wonderfully of burgeoning chicken stock. But the cause of this smell is omething even more excellent and tasty - bread-wrapped roast chicken. This is a Palestinian dish found across the Levant called musakhan. Musakhan, which literally means "warmed," consists of chicken pieces and caramelized onions wrapped up in swaths of of flatbread and baked until the chicken falls off the bone and the bread absorbs all those good chicken juices.
You'll see many different versions of this across the Middle East, including fast food versions that include flatbread dough with onions and chicken baked on top. But the traditional version wraps the chicken in a kind of bread called marquq, a very thin flatbread made on a saj grill. A good Middle Eastern grocery will have marquq, but other thin flatbreads, like shraq or lavash will also work.
When I once described this dish to a friend, she exclaimed, "bread-wrapped roast chicken, that sounds like a dream!" And indeed, it is excellent. The bread, which is soft and full of chickeny juices on the bottom and crisp and crackly no top, the deep flavor of caramelized onions, the fleck of sumac, the tender meat. It's the sort of weeknight comfort food you can eat all week long.
While you can include the chicken wings in the pan, I find the wings are boney and take up too much space in the pan, so I usually set them aside from another use. I like to double or triple the bread on the bottom, so that it absorbs chicken and onion juices, but I like only one layer of crispy bread on the top.
1 free-range chicken (about 3 1/2 lbs), butchered into 2 legs, 2 thighs, 2 legs, and 2 wings
good quality olive oil
2 large sweet onions, or 3 medium size ones
1/4 cup sumac
3-4 sheets marquq bread
1. In a large, deep casserole, heat 1/ 4 cup of the olive oil, then lightly brown the chicken on all sides over a medium heat, about 20 minutes. Remove and set aside. Add the remaining 1/ 4 cup olive oil to the casserole and cook the onions until translucent, about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the sumac and cook for 2 minutes to mix.
2. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9 x 12-inch baking dish or large casserole, then line with two or three stacked sheets of marquq bread, or two halves of Arabic-style bread. Spoon half the onions over each, then arrange the chicken on top of the onions and cover with the remaining onions and the juices from the casserole. Cover with a single sheet of marquq bread or halves of Arabic bread, tucking in the sides crusty side up and sprinkling some water over top. Bake until the chicken is very tender and almost falling off the bone, about 1 1/ 2 hours. After 1/2 hour, cover the top with aluminum foil. Keep an eye on the bottom of the pan, if you see juices bubbling in the bottom of the pan add some water to the bottom of the pan so they don't burn.
3. Let rest a few minutes, then serve. Makes good leftovers.
Note: The size of marquq bread varies, so use common sense.