Chicken Stew — African-Style

One of the foods to watch in 2011, according to The Food Channel (www.foodchannel.com/articles/article/top-ten-foods-watch-2011/) is sweet potatoes, a vegetable that’s very familiar to me. We try to have the tasty and nutritious tuber at least a couple of times a month.

So, it was with interest that I saw that African Chicken Peanut Stew was going to be on the menu at Dakota Harvest Bakers in Grand Forks this month. Sweet potatoes are one of the ingredients in the stew, which also includes chicken, of course, and tomatoes, onions, garlic and ginger in a rich peanut base seasoned with coriander and a touch of cayenne.

Since I had about 3 or 4 pounds of leftover chicken in the refrigerator from a meal we had the other night, it crossed my mind that we should try our own version of the stew, which is, in various forms, common all over West Africa. So, I went in search of a recipe and came up with the following. It contains almost all of the ingredients that are listed in the bakery’s stew.

African Chicken Peanut Stew
2 to 3 pounds chicken legs, thighs and/or wings
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large yellow or white onion, sliced
3-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
6 to 8 garlic cloves, chopped roughly
2 to 3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 15-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
1 quart chicken stock
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup roasted peanuts
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
Salt and black pepper
½ cup of chopped cilantro
Heat the vegetable oil in a large soup pot set over medium-high heat. Salt the chicken pieces well, pat them dry and brown them in the oil. Don’t crowd the pot, so do this in batches. Set the chicken pieces aside as they brown.
Saute the onions in the oil for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring often and scraping any browned bits off the bottom of the pot. Add the ginger and garlic and sauté another 1 to 2 minutes, then add the sweet potatoes and stir well to combine.
Add the chicken, chicken broth, crushed tomatoes, peanut butter, peanuts, coriander and cayenne and stir well to combine. Bring to a simmer and taste for salt, adding more if needed. Cover the pot and simmer gently for 90 minutes (check after an hour), or until the chicken meat easily falls off the bone and the sweet potatoes are tender.
Remove the chicken pieces and set them in a bowl to cool, until cool enough to touch. Remove and discard the skin if you want, or chop it and put it back into the pot. Shred the meat off the bones and put the meat back in the pot.
Adjust the seasonings for salt and cayenne, then add as much black pepper as you think you can stand — the stew should be peppery. Stir in the cilantro and serve by itself, or with simple steamed rice.
Yield: Serves 6 to 8.

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