Sumac and Za'atar Roast Chicken | Wine Enthusiast
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Sumac and Za’atar Roast Chicken

Courtesy Sean O’Toole, chef/co-owner, Torc, Napa

Sumac and za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice mixture, add tart complexity to this simple roast chicken.


3 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon parsley, fine-chopped
1 teaspoon ground sumac
2 teaspoons za’atar
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Meyer lemons, zested
1 2½–3 pound chicken, wings and wishbone removed
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 fennel bulb, cored and cut into 8 wedges
8 white pearl onions, peeled
6 small potatoes, quartered lengthwise
12 Taggiasca (or other small) olives, pitted and halved


Heat oven to 350˚F, and place cast iron pan in oven to heat.

Combine 2 tablespoons of butter with parsley, sumac, za’atar, garlic, zest of 1 lemon and salt, to taste. Loosen chicken skin by running your fingers between skin and meat. Using your hands or a pastry bag, spread butter mixture under the skin until whole breast is coated evenly. Truss chicken, if desired.

Rub outside of chicken with remaining butter, and season well with salt and pepper. Place chicken in hot cast iron pan and cook 50 minutes, basting occasionally. Remove chicken and let rest.

Raise heat to 475˚F. Add fennel, onions and potatoes, and toss to coat with drippings. Roast for 25 minutes, tossing halfway through. Remove from pan and toss with remaining lemon zest, olives and salt and pepper, to taste.

Carve chicken and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Pair It

Lillian 2015 Roussanne (Ballard Canyon). “[Winemaker] Maggie Harrison’s Roussanne has great texture and aromatics that complement the richly flavored butter-roasted chicken,” says Cynthia O’Toole, wine director/co-owner of Torc. “The za’atar and natural acidity of the sumac plays well with the wine’s acidity and Roussanne’s affinity for exotic flavors.”