Buried in Vermicelli

Ana Sortun

Oleana and Sofra Bakery and Café, Cambridge, MA

James Beard Award–winning chef Ana Sortun included this dish on the menu at her Spice-Inspired Dégustation dinner at the Beard House. The Moroccan chicken dish (named shaariya medfouna), is playfully hidden under a mound of crushed vermicelli.


  • 1 whole chicken (about 3 1/2 pounds)
  • 2 3/4 cups water
  • 2 large onions, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads or powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon orange flower water (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 pound dried vermicelli nests
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 teaspoon of confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon demerera sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt


To prepare the chicken, place the chicken in a deep Dutch oven, breast side up. Add the water and bring to a boil. Skim off the scum. Add the onions, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ginger, saffron, turmeric, and salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 1 hour, turning the chickens halfway through cooking. Lift the chickens from the pan. When cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the skin and bones. Cut the meat into 2-inch pieces.

Bring the liquid remaining in the pan to a boil and let the mixture bubble steadily until it is reduced by half and a thick sauce results, approximately 10 minutes. Whisk 2 tablespoons of butter into the liquid. Then whisk in the honey and orange flower water, if using. Simmer 2 minutes more. Stir in the parsley and coriander.

To prepare the vermicelli, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Working in a large bowl, crush the vermicelli nests with your hands. Drop the pasta into the boiling water and cook, stirring often at the beginning, for 5 minutes or until it is tender but still has some bite. Drain and return to the pot. Cut the remaining 3 tablespoons butter into small pieces. Stir the butter into the pasta.

In a pan, heat the oil and cook the almonds for a few minutes, stirring often, until lightly browned. Drain on paper towels. When they are cool, finely chop the almonds. Stir in 1 teaspoons of cinnamon, confectioners’ sugar, demerera sugar, and sea salt.

On a very large platter, or on serving plates, arrange the chicken and sauce. Cover it with a mountain of vermicelli. Sprinkle it with the almond mixture.


6 servings