Chicken Kleftiko with Vegetables Wrapped in Parchment Paper

This simple chicken recipe is inspired from Arni Stamnas, baked in an unglazed clay jar called stamna, which was used by women to bring water from the village fountain. The story goes that some women secretly fed their sons or husbands who were guerrillas in the mountains, during the war of independence from the Ottomans in the 19th cen. by leaving water jars filled with food near the fountain. In the night, the men came secretly and collected it.

Since the water jar has a small opening, small pieces of meat and vegetables were inserted in the jar, which was then sealed with dough and slow-roasted in the wood-fired oven.

 

On the other hand,Arni Kleftiko (Guerillas’ Lamb) is a variation of the previous recipe. It was a simpler dish the guerillas prepared and baked in holes in the ground, where just a few charcoals warmed the stones keeping a slow, smokeless fire that didn’t betray their position, as they roasted pieces of lamb or goat wrapped in leaves and goat or lamb skin. ‘Kleftiko’ included small pieces of aged, spicy cheese, and is flavored with lemon and herbs. Unfortunately the Kleftiko most taverns make today, has lots of mostly melted cheese and it is far from the original recipe, I feel. 

 

The version of Arni Stamnas’ I puiblished in my first book was given to me by Electra Kalamboka from Kavalla in northern Greece, and it is obviously a more contemporary recipe with tomatoes, which came to be a common ingredient in Greek cooking around the end of the 19th cen. after Greece became an independent country.  

Somehow merging the two previous recipes, to cook chicken wrapped in parchment paper. Placing the wrapped food in a clay pot enhances the flavors, as it slows the roasting even further.

 

 

Serve with bulgur pilaf, or with plain olive-oil-and- pepper spaghetti or orzo, dousing the pasta with the delicious Kleftiko juices.

 

 

Serves 4-5

 

 

About 650 grams boned and skinned Chicken Thighs

 

3 medium carrots, sliced lengthwise and cut into 3-4 inch pieces

 

1 medium purple onion, halved and sliced

 

3 small eggplants –about 800 grams

 

5 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

 

1 lemon, halved to remove the pips then thinly sliced, PLUS more lemon juice as needed

 

3 bell peppers (red, green and yellow) seeded and cut into strips

 

 

150 grams hard, aged goat’s or sheep’s milk cheese cut  into small pieces (I used some leftover  Manoura of Sifnos (the cheese that ages in wine dregs) BUT any hard, spicy & salty goat’s or sheep’s milk cheese is fine –try the very hard aged mizithra, or aged, hard Pecorino. 

 

About 1/3 cup olive oil

 

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, preferably the one with the seeds

 

Ground coriander seeds, cumin, salt and lots of Aleppo pepper)

 

A few branches of thyme and/or oregano, and dried Greek oregano to sprinkle at the end

 

 

Preheat the oven to 175 C (350 F).

 

Place all ingredients in a large bowl and toss well, then cut two large pieces of parchment paper placing them one on top of the other in the pan –clay or Dutch oven that you plan to roast the food in.

 

Close the paper to cover the food and place the cover on top of the pan.

 

Bake for about 3 hours, opening after 2 hours to check and maybe taste the juices, correcting the seasoning with more salt, pepper, or olive oil.

 

When everything is almost fully cooked, open the parchment paper and continue roasting to get some color and caramelize the top of the vegetables.

 

Sprinkle with oregano and serve.

 

 

 

 

Share

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.