"The only real stumbling block is the fear of failure. In cooking, you have got to have a what-the-hell attitude." ~ Julia Child

Chicken Sofrito: Oh Jerusalem!

by Julie on June 1, 2013

in Delicious Books, Minor Miracles

butterfly chicken for chicken sofrito

Life is like a butterfly…and so is chicken sofrito…

It’s not like chicken sofrito is a complicated dish. Sofrito, in the Levant sense of the word, is more a technique than a recipe. Basically you let the chicken cook itself in a small amount of liquid and mostly in its own juices.

But it is very much like me to over-estimate my focus and my ability. That and my equipment.

The dish, on page 190 of the fabulous “Jerusalem” cookbook gifted to me by my friend Letty, is reputed to be excellent. And I was having another girlfriend who is getting married over for dinner that night, and I wanted to do something special.  So I decided on this. How hard could it be, I reasoned. It’s just chicken.

Of course, we know my history with the simple roast chicken, don’t we. I’d like to think I’ve improved a bit over the years.

But maybe not. There were some complications.

For starters, where did I get the idea that I knew how to quarter or butterfly a chicken?

I don’t. I’ve never done it. In retrospect, I should have just bought a chicken already quartered for me. But that would have taken forethought and I don’t do a lot of that.

Plus I didn’t have the knife power to quarter a whole chicken. Fortunately I had a boning knife left by the Chef which was the sharpest knife in the house.. Who knows if it was the right kind of knife to use. But it did the job. Eventually.

Secondly. I don’t have a pan big enough to splay a butterflied chicken. So I ripped off the legs and threw them in a separate pot. Dexter would have been proud of my mutilation skills.

Yeah. You laugh. But despite these absurdities, I managed to make this one turn out. Here’s the recipe:


 Chicken Sofrito (From Jerusalem: A Cookbook)

1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 small free-range chicken (about 3 1/4 pound), quartered or butterflied. Whatever this means. (note: The smallest chicken I could find was 4 lbs, and maybe this was the problem with fitting it into my pan. You think?)
1 tsp sweet paprika
1/4 tsp. ground tumeric
1/4 tsp sugar
2 1/2 tbspns freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1 large onion, peeled and quartered
sunflower oil, for frying
1 3/4 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, washed, peeled and diced
25 cloves garlic
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pour the oil into a large, shallow pan or dutch oven and heat over a medium flame. Put the chicken flat in the pan, skin side down, and sear 4 to 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Season all over with the spices and half the lemon juice.

(I mixed all the seasonings together with the lemon juice to create a sort of paste, and rubbed the chicken with that. Seemed to work.)

Turn the chicken over so that the skin faces up, add the onion, and cover with a lid. Turn down the heat to low and cook for a total of 1 1/2 hours. Open the lid every so often to check the level of juices. The idea is for the chicken to cook in its own, but you might find you have to add a bit of water or stock. But just a little.

When the chicken has been cooking for about 30 minutes, fry the potatoes and garlic in the sunflower oil until they take up some color and crisp up. Use a slotted spoon to lift them from the oil and let them drain on paper towels. Season them with salt.

After the chicken has been cooking for one hour, lift it somehow and throw the potatoes and garlic into the pot, stirring them into the juices before putting the chicken back on top of them. Close the lid and finish cooking another 30 minutes.

The chicken should be falling off the bone when you’re done, and the potatoes should be soaked in the cooking liquid and completely soft.

Drizzle with the remaining lemon juice before serving.

chicken sofrito

it cooked up nice

Oh, and if you really want to wow them, serve them with this:

Sour cream and sumac sauce

scant 1/2 cup of sour cream
scant 1/2 cup of whole plain Greek yogurt
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 small clove garlic, crushed
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp sumac
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Mix it all together in

a small bowl and chill until needed.


I immediately took a cellphone picture to post on Facebook, because I have a group of friends who also love this cookbook, and we’re taking turns trying to show off – comparing what we’ve made with the photo in the book.

chicken sofrito

Good thing there is no picture of this in the cookbook…


Trust me. It tastes a whole lot better than it looks.

Suggestions for what to try next?


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Habiba July 30, 2013 at 7:47 am

I’m making this tonight! Was just browsing online to see who else had tried it and found your post 🙂


Wistar September 22, 2013 at 8:11 pm

Holy heck. I am definitely making this dish. I admit to having an advantage as I have actually quartered a chicken by mimicking a TV chef and I have a ginormous Global chefs knife that someone gave me as a gift. You wouldn’t believe how big this knife is. I am picturing my non-cooking friend buying it for me at Sur La Table by asking for the damn biggest Global chef’s knife in the world. Scimitars slink away in abject humiliation when introduced to this knife. In addition to its movie-prop scale, the degree of sharpness is such that Homeland Security has three agents devoted to keeping track of where this knife is and what it is doing.

It quarters chickens merely by being set down next to them.

Anyway, thank you for introducing me to sumac. I am sure that I have heard of sumac before—isn’t that what Socrates drank? I am going to investigate.


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