Morgh Shekam Por is a traditional stuffed chicken that is packed with a wide range of flavors, textures, and colors. Chickens – often the smaller varieties that have the best flavor – are marinated in citrus juice, spices and oil, and then filled to the brim with the stuffing.
Shekam Por is an endearing Persian term used when vegetables, meats, or fish are stuffed. In Farsi, Shekam means belly and Por means full, so Shekam Por is what I am hoping you will experience after preparing this dish!
In the northern part of Iran by the Caspian Sea, it is quite customary to use ducks instead of chicken, in which case the name of the dish changes to Morghabi Shekam Por.
Much like the Thanksgiving Turkey with all its elaborate stuffings, Persians also have their own unique blends of ingredients that find their way into their stuffed dishes. Various fresh or dried fruits, nuts, vegetables, and even a wider range of fresh herbs and spices are chopped and tossed with cooked onions to develop creative and satisfying combinations.
Here is a short list of items to choose from:
- Fresh apples, quince, pears or sour cherries
- Walnuts, almonds or pistachios
- Lime, lemon, orange, apple or pomegranate juice/molasses
- Fresh parsley, cilantro, tarragon, dill, chives, mint, spring onions or leeks
- Saffron, turmeric, sumac, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, coriander, chili pepper, garlic or ginger
- Dried apricots, figs, dates, raisins, barberries, prunes or sour cherries
- Rice or other grains
With all these ingredients, the chicken will inevitably be moist, bright in color, and delightfully aromatic, with a playful twist of savory and sweet flavors.
It just so happens that I am publishing this post a week before Thanksgiving and so I hope you give this Persian stuffed chicken a try for your holiday celebration!
In our household, we are foregoing the traditional turkey this year and preparing a couple of different varieties of this stuffed chicken for the much smaller gathering at our Thanksgiving table.
Morgh Shekam Por
- 1 whole chicken approximately 5 pounds
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper, ground
- 1 teaspoon turmeric, ground
- 4 tablespoons olive oil or butter
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1/2 cup walnut, roughly chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper, ground
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin, ground
- 1/4 teaspoon coriander, ground
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
- 1/4 teaspoon cardamom, ground
- 1 granny smith apple, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1/2 cup dried cherries
- 1/2 cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, ground using a mortar and pestle
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Rinse the chicken thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels.
- Rub the entire chicken with salt, pepper and turmeric and place on a lightly greased tray or oven proof dish.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F and lower the oven rack toward the bottom 1/3 of the oven.
- In a large frying pan, saute the onions with oil over medium heat for 10 minutes. Once the onions have turned translucent, add the walnuts, salt and pepper and all of the spices and saute for an additional 2 minutes.
- Add the remaining ingredients for the filling to the pan and toss around. Turn the flame off and set aside.
- Stuff the chicken with the filling, making sure all the filling is nicely tucked into the cavity. Close the cavity as best as you can.
- Place the chicken in the oven and roast for approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes or until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the thighs has reached 165°F. Baste periodically as described below.
- As soon as the chicken has started to roast, place all the ingredients for the baste in a sauce pan and mix well over low heat for a couple of minutes. Set aside.
- Brush the chicken periodically with the baste until all the basting liquid has been used.
- Once the chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165°F, remove the chicken from the oven and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
- Place the chicken on a serving platter and serve with plain rice, bread, salad or fresh herbs.