Jerusalemite Hamin – Overnight Chicken and Pasta Dish

“Hamin” is a dish that came to be in order to solve a religious practice. The Jewish laws of observing the Sabbath, the day of rest, forbid cooking during this day. In order to still have a warm meal during Shabbat, the solution was simple: place the food in the oven on Friday evening, and let it cook slowly overnight on very low heat, until needed.
Every Jewish community around the world has a version of this dish, using local ingredients and seasonings. In Eastern Europe, it was also called “Cholent”, and consisted of beef, beans and barley. Iraqi Jews used chicken with rice and tomatoes, while in North Africa lamb and chickpeas were the main ingredients, and the list goes on and on.
All these versions are hearty and tasty, but also fairly heavy. The much lighter version I have here, originated by Sephardic Jews,  in the Jewish Quarter of the old part of Jerusalem, where Jews from all descents influenced each other and created a unique cuisine.
The dish consists of very few ingredients: chicken, potatoes, onions and pasta. It is very easy to prepare, and once you place the pot in the oven – against all culinary logic – all that is needed is to wait patiently for it to cook.
Once you’ll take the pot out of the oven, you’ll be amazed by the how these humble ingredients were transformed during the time in the oven, creating this tasty special dish. The chicken falls off the bones, with intense flavor and color; the pasta turns brownish, with a slight sweetness, as the sugars in it, and from the onion, caramelized slowly;  the eggs and potatoes also get a special deep golden-brown color and unique nutty flavor. All these together create a hearty and comforting meal. This is a great dish to make on a cold winter weekend. Try it and enjoy.

Notes:
* The eggs cooked this way are called “huevos haminados” (i.e. eggs cooked in Hamin) in Ladino (the Judeo-Spanish) and are considered a delicacy on their own. They are sometimes cooked separately, to be served with dairy pastries such as the Burekitas (a recipe for which can be found HERE ) for the Shabbat brunch.
* In some versions of the dish, spices and tomato paste are also added. I prefer this original minimalist version, but feel free to experiment according to your taste.
* For more information about Sephardic cuisine, check HERE.

Makes: 4-6
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Baking time: at least 8 hours, and up to 12

Ingredients:
4 L eggs
1 package (12 oz/340 grams) Bucatini pasta
1 Tbs salt
1 tsp freshly ground four peppers mix
4 medium chicken thighs, bone in, skin on, preferably air chilled
2 Tbs light olive oil
1 large white onion, roughly diced
½ tsp sugar
4 medium red potatoes, peeled and sliced thick
1 cup boiling water

1. Preheat the oven to 210F (99C). Place the eggs in a small pot, cover with water, bring to the boil and cook for 5 minutes. Drain and keep aside.
2. In a large pot, bring plenty of lightly salted water to the boil. Add the pasta and cook 2 minutes less that the directions on the package specify. Drain, place in a large bowl and keep aside.

3. Pat-dry the chicken and season with a bit of the salt and pepper. Heat 1 Tbs of the oil in a wide flat pot over medium-high heat. Add the chicken thighs, skin side down, and fry for 3-4 minutes until golden. Turn and fry for 2-3 minutes. Take out and keep in a warm place.

4. Add the remaining oil and onion to the pot, season with more of the salt and pepper, and the sugar. Mix and sauté for 2-3 minutes, until the onion softens and starts to brown a bit. Transfer most of it (keeping a bit of the oil and fried onions in the pot) to the bowl with the cooked pasta, and mix well. Season with the rest of salt and pepper, and taste to adjust seasoning.

5. Arrange the potato slices in the pot, in one layer. Add half of the pasta on top and arrange the chicken, with its juices, and eggs, over it. Arrange the rest of the pasta on top. Pour the boiling water into the bowl in which the pasta was, swirl it and pour into the pot.

6. Place a circle of baking paper on top, and then cover tightly with the pot cover. Place in the oven, and bake for at least 8 hours, and up to 12.

7. To serve, peel the eggs, cut in half and season with salt and pepper. Place the pasta (the top part has denser texture, while the lower has softer one, so keep them side by side, so each guest can choose the type they like) on a warm large serving plate. Add the chicken, potatoes and eggs on the side and serve.

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