Chicken in the Oven with potatoes

Fridays are a special time of the week for Mayada’s family, both here and in Homs. In Syria, it was tradition that the whole extended family would gather after Friday prayers to cook and eat—it was the only time each week when everyone got together. Friday mornings, without fail, they would wake up and start cooking for the meal to come, preparing special dishes like this “chicken in the oven” and Mehshi Khodar (page 92). Now, with their family dispersed across Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon, Mayada and Ahmad still honor their Friday tradition, preparing the same dishes, albeit in smaller amounts.

Mayada explains that many Muslim families enjoy similar roasted chicken meals on Fridays, but, of course, every family does it a little differently. In her version, she marinates chicken pieces in garlic, spices, and vinegar. The chicken is then roasted over potatoes that catch all the drippings and get crispy and brown in the pan. Though she’ll switch up the sides, yogurt and a simple salad are mainstays. You can use whichever bone-in chicken parts you prefer (just drumsticks and thighs, for example), or one whole chicken cut into pieces. Mayada removes the skin before cooking, as that’s her family’s preference.


Serves 4 to 6


  • 3  1⁄2 pounds medium or large russet potatoes

  • 3 pounds bone-in chicken pieces or 1 whole chicken, cut into pieces (skin removed, optional)

  • 1⁄4 cup white vinegar

  • Olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste

  • 3 teaspoons salt

  • 1⁄2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 3  1⁄2 tablespoons ground cumin

  • 8 cloves garlic, smashed into a paste with 1 teaspoon salt


  1. Peel the potatoes and slice crosswise into 1⁄4-inch-thick rounds. Place in a colander and rinse under cold water. Drain well.

  2. Use a small sharp knife to poke several incisions in each chicken piece. Place the chicken in a large bowl and add the vinegar, 1⁄4 cup olive oil, the tomato paste, 1 teaspoon of the salt, 1⁄4 teaspoon of the cayenne, 1  1⁄2 tablespoons of the cumin, and half of the garlic paste. Use your hands to thoroughly coat the chicken.

  3. In a large rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan, combine the potatoes, the remaining 1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons cumin, remaining garlic paste, and 2 teaspoons salt. Toss to thoroughly coat the potatoes. Spread to evenly cover the pan.

  4. Place the chicken pieces on top of the potatoes and pour any marinade remaining in the bowl over the chicken and potatoes. Marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

  5. While the chicken is marinating, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

  6. Roast the chicken for about 30 minutes, then check. If the potatoes look dry, lightly drizzle with a little olive oil. Roast for 30 minutes more (about 1 hour total), until the chicken is cooked through. The juices should run clear when you insert a knife, and the potatoes should be crispy and browned. Remove from the oven and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes. Drizzle with additional olive oil before serving.

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“A quietly powerful reflection on how food can bring families together, Mayada’s book honors the everyday rhythms of the immigrant experience. Fatayer, mulukhiyah, tabbouleh—these recipes show why Syrian cuisine should have a place at everyone’s table.”

— Marcus Samuelsson, co-owner of Red Rooster Harlem

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