Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Guinea Style Chicken

Here’s another recipe for you to enjoy. This is a dish that my mother used to make and now I have adapted it and I make it myself. The dish is West African in origin, but we are not! My mom is not quite sure where she got the recipe. The ingredients may seem quite unusual but trust me when I say that this really does work!

3 lbs chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on
3 onions, chopped
½ head garlic, minced
about 2 tblsp. Peanut oil
1 tsp paprika
1tblsp tomato paste
2 cups canned tomatoes (or homemade tomato sauce)
2 cups chicken stock (homemade or quality low-sodium store-bought)
1-2 tsp rosemary
1 tsp cayenne or more to taste
salt & pepper
1 cup natural crunchy peanut butter
3 tblsp tamarind paste
2 cups frozen peas

Saffron Rice
2 cups rice
4 cups water
pinch of salt
pinch of saffron threads

Cut each chicken breast in half through the bone (a cleaver is essential for this) and brown them in a pot large enough to cook the entire dish. Do not overcrowd the pan, there needs to be space around each piece of chicken. Brown in batches until all the chicken is browned (not cooked through) and set aside. Add onions to same pan. Sweat the onions, scraping any brown bits off the bottom of the pan. When onions are almost cooked add garlic and cook a few seconds until the odour is released. Add paprika and tomato paste and cook for a minute, stirring constantly. Add tomatoes and chicken stock and bring to simmer. Add rosemary, cayenne, salt and pepper, then add chicken back to pan, along with any juices. Stir to make sure all chicken is covered in sauce and simmer until chicken is cooked, about 30 minutes
Meanwhile, combine rice and almost all water in a pot and steep the saffron threads in a small bit of hot water until the colour comes out, then add it all to the rice. Bring rice, covered, to a boil then immediately bring down to a very low simmer. This is much easier with a gas stove. If you have electric, have another burner preheated on low and transfer the pot when it reaches a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes then turn heat off and let sit for 10 minutes longer.
When chicken is cooked add peanut butter and tamarind and mix until smooth. Taste for seasoning. Add frozen peas, bring back to simmer and serve with saffron rice.

A note on the pic. Your rice will probably look more yellow than this. When I made it, I did not take the time to steep the saffron so the colour is not uniform.

Extra Notes:
First a note about buying chicken. When possible, avoid ordinary supermarket chicken. First, because they are water-chilled, you are paying for water and more importantly there is a much greater risk of salmonella contamination than when chicken is air-chilled. Second, the cheapest chickens are so priced because they are raised in truly horrible conditions. They live jammed together, are fed food of questionable origin and are more prone to diseases. There is a very good TV special hosted by Jamie Oliver where he exposes the practices of chicken farmers. Finally, higher quality chickens tend to have better flavour. Obviously, free-range organic is the best choice but can be pricey. A decent compromise would be to buy chickens that are fed 100% vegetable grain. Another budget option can be Kosher chicken. The chickens have to meet higher standards of health and, because the process of Koshering involves soaking the chicken in a salt solution, the meat is more flavourful. Just be sure to use a little less salt if you use this chicken.

The cayenne is very important in this dish. Peanut butter is a tricky ingredient to combine with tomatoes and the heat of cayenne is important for this to work. If you can’t handle spicy food, don’t make this dish. When you add the cayenne, taste the sauce and you should feel a medium-strong chili burn.

Tamarind is probably an unusual ingredient for many people. It can be found in any Asian grocery, either as a liquid concentrate or in a package of paste, either with or without seeds. If you have a paste with seeds you will need to loosen the paste with a small amount of hot water and mash the mixture through a sieve. The other forms can be added straight in. There is really no substitute for tamarind but if for some reason you cannot find it, adding some sour ingredient will get you close. Lemon juice would probably be the most acceptable.

The amounts of many of these ingredients are not tested. I don’t measure when I make this so I have done my best to approximate the amounts I use. The best advice is to taste and when it tastes good to you, then its right! Enjoy!

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