T'bit, Iraqi Shabbat Stew | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

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T'bit, Iraqi Shabbat Stew

An Iraqi Shabbat Stew that uses chicken instead of beef, t'bit is lighter than cholent.
T'bit, Iraqi Shabbat Stew

Serves 6

15 min

1 hr

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In New York, and really in the United States in general, we tend to equate "Jewish" with "Ashkenazi." Of course, it ain't so, and thank God, because Sephardi food is often much better: more delicious, healthier, lighter. In her new book, Jewish Soul Food: From Minsk to Marrakesh (Schocken), Janna Gur picks the best of what she calls "grandmother's greatest hits" from Jewish kitchens across the world. And she should know, because she and her husband Ilan are the founders of Al HaShulchan, the Israeli food magazine that's equivalent to our Bon Appetit, or Food & Wine.

From her perch beside the melting pot that is Israeli cuisine, Gur was ideally placed to identify, develop and test those precious home recipes, the H'rira (Moroccan vegetable and legume soup) and Fesenjan (Persian meatballs in walnut and pomegranate sauce) and, yes, Gefilte Fish, that usually don't get written down, and sometimes die with the elderly ladies whose specialities they were. This book, Gur's second after The Book of New Israeli Food, is her attempt to not just preserve, but inject new life into, a global Jewish food culture.

"It's not enough just to write down a recipe and cook it," Gur said, "You also have to find enough other people who want to cook it, too."

Israel, she says, is a great place to try to make this happen, because it is a "nation of foodies" with a weekly, built-in dinner party on which to hone their cooking chops: Shabbat.

In Ashkenazi communities, of course, cholent, the long-simmered stew of beef and beans, rules. But in keeping with the new book's ethos, Gur urges us Galitzianers and Litvaks to take a good look at an Iraqi alternative, t'bit. From the book: "Shabbat casseroles are pretty heavy. Iraqi t’bit is different. It has all the comforting essence of a very slowly cooked pot roast, but because it is made with chicken and rice (rather than beef and beans), it is considerably lighter. Just imagine how delicious the chicken tastes after it spends the night in the oven wrapped in a blanket of fragrant rice."

Klær Nike

Special Equipment Needed:

Toothpicks or a trussing needle and thread

For the stuffing:

2 cups long-grain white rice or parboiled brown rice (see below)

4 tomatoes, grated

1 large onion, grated

2 garlic cloves, minced (optional)

1 to 2 tablespoons baharat spice mix (see page below)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 heaping teaspoon dried mint

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the chicken:

1 whole chicken (3 pounds/1½ kg)

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups chicken stock or water

  1. Prepare the stuffing:
  2. Mix together the rice, tomatoes, onion, garlic (if using), baharat, vegetable oil, mint, salt, and pepper.
  3. Prepare the chicken:
  4. Fill the chicken’s cavity with one-quarter of the stuff¬ing and secure it with toothpicks or a trussing needle and thread.
  5. Heat the olive oil in a large ovenproof pot with a tight-fitting lid and brown the stuffed chicken on all sides, about 15 minutes.
  6. Arrange the remaining stuffing around the chicken, so that the chicken is half buried in it. Pour the chicken stock over and bring to a boil.
  7. Cook for 10 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed by the rice. Preheat the oven to 215°F (100°C).
  8. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and place in the oven to cook for at least 8 hours or overnight.
  9. Prepare the baharat:
  10. Combine 1 tablespoon ground cardamom, 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper, 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, 1 tablespoon ground ginger, 1½ teaspoons ground allspice, 1½ teaspoons ground nutmeg.
Sub Recipe(s)

Parboiling improves the texture of brown rice and enables you to use it in any recipe that calls for white rice. To cook 3 cups brown rice, bring to a boil 6 to 7 cups water with 2 to 3 teaspoons salt. Add the rice and boil for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain. Refrigerate if it will be more than a couple hours before you use it.