Tbit: Iraqi Slow Cooked Chicken and Brown Rice

I don't think it's unreasonable to bundle all Middle Eastern, Sephardic food under one umbrella. It seems like all the different streams have similar foods and eat in comparable tradition. But it's not quite so. I grew up in a Moroccan and Libyan home where dishes from those countries were present weekly. As I got older, I started to learn from other cultures that are similar yet vastly different, I discovered foods I had never heard about. From Persian stews to Syrian appetizers and Yemenite doughs, it was all new but the tastes so familiar. 

In Palm Springs three years ago, I spent Shabbat with family and family friends. The friends part of the group was an Iraqi couple my husband and his father know well. For Shabbat lunch, next to my father-in-law's chamin sat a disposable aluminium pan filled with a large bird surrounded by pearls of rice. Its deep crimson rouge looked so enticing compared to the dull brown I was used to week after week. I tried a bite and I was surprised and pleased, because I had found an alternative to the familiar pot of steaming chamin. The dish is called Tbit and it's basically the Iraqi version of Chamin or Dafina. Traditionally, the chicken is stuffed with rice under its skin and then cooked overnight in an abundant sprinkling of baharat. I simplified things by using chicken drumsticks since they hold up nicely when cooked overnight and I also made my own spice blend. I think it's the fragrant spices in the blend that make the dish complex and flavorful. From the peppery paprika to the earthy coriander and warm cinnamon and cardamom. 

I gave instructions on how to prepare this as a dish on its own or as an alternative to cholent, which means it can sit on the hot plate overnight. The only thing that's a must is that the rice be brown. It holds up well to all the water and keeps its chew. White rice turns to mush and has a baby cereal texture that isn't very appealing. Unless you like baby cereal. I'll leave the discretion up to you. 

T’Bit: Iraqi Slow Cooked Chicken and Brown Rice


4-5 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, diced

7-8 (1.5 lb) chicken drumsticks

4 medium tomatoes, diced

2 cups brown rice, rinsed

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons baharat (see below)

1 teaspoon hot paprika (optional)

3 cloves garlic

1.5 teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper


In a dutch oven or large braiser, heat the olive oil on medium high. Add the onions and saute until translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add the drumsticks, season with a sprinkle of salt and pepper and sear on each side until golden, about 2-3 minutes per side. Add the diced tomatoes and cook until they soften and release their juices, about 4 minutes. Pour the rice around the chicken. Season with tomato paste, baharat, hot paprika, salt and pepper. Add the whole garlic cloves and 4 cups boiling water and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook for 3-4 minutes, cover and reduce to a simmer until the rice is cooked through, about 45-60 minutes.

Once the rice is cooked, heat your oven on broil and transfer the pot to the oven to crisp the top, for 3-4 minutes. Carefully remove from the oven and set aside until ready to transfer to the hot plate. Serve hot.

To serve on Shabbat day, skip the broil. Add 1-2 cups of water after all the water has been absorbed by the rice. Transfer to the hot plate for 24 hours. Serve hot.


makes enough for 2 servings

3 tablespoons paprika

1 tablespoon ground coriander

1 tablespoon cumin

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground cardamom

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

In a small bowl, mix all the ingredients.