Traditional in Middle Eastern cooking, the spice sumac brings a clean, tart, lemony flavor and a deep rose color to this chicken recipe. Start by sautéing the onions until brown, stir in the parsley and garlic, and toss with the bread. Roast the sumac-rubbed chicken on top of the bread mixture, and then, when the chicken is finished, transfer the toasted bread to a serving bowl and toss it with fresh cucumber and tomato for a panzanella-like to serve with the chicken.
What to buy: Armenian or Persian cucumbers, if you can find them, are delicious in this salad and, like Kirbys, don’t need to be peeled or seeded. If neither is available, your basic cucumber will be fine—just peel and seed it before slicing. Ripe summer tomatoes are ideal. If you’re making this out of season, substitute Roma or halved cherry tomatoes, which usually have some semblance of flavor in winter.
You can find ground sumac in Middle Eastern markets or by mail from Kalustyan’s.
Game plan: If you can, start the dish in the morning so that the seasoned chicken can rest for several hours before roasting.
1 (3- to 3-1/2-pound) whole chicken
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons ground sumac
5 tablespoonsolive oil, plus more to coat the baking dish
2 medium red onions (about 1 pound), thinly sliced
2 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped Italian parsley
12 ounces dense bread (such as farm bread or pane de casa), cut into 1-inch cubes
8 ounces Kirby cucumbers (about 3 medium), quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
12 ounces ripe tomatoes, cored, seeded, and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
Juice of 1/2 lemon, plus more as needed
Cut the backbone out of the chicken with kitchen shears and discard the bone. Using the palm of your hand, press down on the chicken to flatten it. Season both sides generously with salt and pepper. Combine the sumac and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a small bowl and rub the mixture all over both sides of the chicken. Transfer the chicken to a large plate or dish and refrigerate it uncovered for about 8 hours. (If you haven’t planned ahead, just leave the seasoned chicken on the counter while you prepare the onions and bread.)
Heat the oven to 375°F and arrange a rack in the middle.
Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onions, season with salt, and cook, stirring often, until softened and just beginning to turn golden brown around the edges, about 9 minutes. Add the garlic and parsley, stir to combine, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl, add the bread, and toss to evenly combine; set aside.
Coat a baking dish with olive oil (make sure the dish is large enough to hold the bread in a single layer). Scrape in the bread mixture and arrange it evenly; reserve the bowl (no need to wash it). Set the chicken on top of the bread and roast until a meat thermometer inserted into the thigh reads 165°F and the juices run clear, about 1 hour.
Set the chicken on a cutting board and let it rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, place the cucumbers and tomatoes in a medium bowl and season with a pinch of salt; set aside. Scrape the bread into the reserved bowl and let it cool for about 10 minutes.
Add the cucumbers, tomato, and measured lemon juice to the bread and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper and add more lemon juice if desired. Pile the salad onto a platter. Cut the chicken into quarters and arrange it around the salad.
Beverage pairing:Bodegas Dos Victorias José Pariente Verdejo, Rueda, Spain. The bright, lemony flavor of sumac along with the lemon and garlic ask for a fruit-forward wine, but it needs a little weight for the chicken and bread. Verdejo from Rueda is just such a grape, with the sweetest flavors of Sauvignon Blanc but without the herbaceousness and with more body.