Maqlouba is a Palestinian layered dish of meat, usually lamb, rice and fried vegetables such as eggplant and cauliflower. The name maqlouba means “upside-down” and refers to the way the dish is presented, flipped upside-down on a large platter, revealing its beautiful rich layers.
While eggplants and cauliflower are local in Palestine and taste great year round there, it’s always nice to experiment with what’s seasonal around here and see how a dish transforms. The maqlouba I made this week had butternut squash in harissa and honey, chicken thighs and plenty of lemon juice in the cooking liquid. The results were delicious.
Butternut squash and harissa maqlouba
Harissa, a spicy roasted pepper condiment, is available at Middle Eastern and specialty supermarkets.
Since not all harissa are made equal, taste to see how much of it you want to add to your dish.
1 cup lemon juice (preserved is possible)
3 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1½ lb. peeled butternut squash, in 1½” cubes
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 tablespoons harissa (or to taste)
2 teaspoon honey
3 cups Jasmine rice, washed
1. In a small pot bring to boil 1 cup lemon juice, 3 cups water and 3 teaspoons kosher salt. Reduce heat to low, cover and keep hot until ready to use.
2. Liberally salt and pepper chicken thighs. Put a tablespoon olive oil in a wide pot over medium-high heat and lightly brown chicken thighs in 2-3 batches, adding another tablespoon olive oil between batches. Transfer to a bowl. Add 2 more tablespoons olive oil to pot and cook butternut squash and onion for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Transfer butternut squash mixture to a separate bowl. Add harissa, honey and 1 teaspoon salt to butternut squash and mix.
3. To arrange the layers in the pot start with chicken at the bottom. Pour any juices the chicken released into the lemon juice pot. Top chicken with 2 cups rice and flatten with a spoon. Top rice with butternut squash and end with 1 cup rice, flattening the surface of rice again. Gently pour hot lemon juice mixture over the rice. Put an upside-down plate on top of the rice to keep the layers tight and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover pot with lid and cook for 1 hour.
4. Let maqlouba sit for 15 minutes, then flip at once (not for the faint of heart!) into a large platter and serve.