Sunday, July 12, 2009

Ethiopian Chicken

Wanted to do something different with chicken for dinner tonight. I love Ethiopian restaurants, so I wondered how close I could get in my own kitchen.

The answer? Not terribly.

While not quite what I expected, the result was delicious nonetheless. The chicken was fall-off-the-bone tender and infused with rich but delicate flavor. The infused oil was simply decadent. And of course, my version is naturally gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free - you name it.

I started with this recipe and decided to take some liberties, including replacing the butter with olive oil. It took some time, but it wasn't terribly challenging. Once the oil is prepared and the onions are cooked, there's not much left to do besides letting it simmer and polishing off the wine. The measurements are approximate - this recipe has a lot of flexibility, so adjust the seasoning to your taste.

Ethiopian-ish Chicken
6 Chicken thighs, skins removed
1/2 lime
1 Tbsp salt
2-3 onions, chopped
1 tsp each fresh ginger and garlic (minced or microplaned)
1/4 tsp fresh black pepper
1/4-1/2 cup red wine
1/2 c. infused oil (see below)
water to cover
Handful of spinach
Fresh cilantro or basil (optional)

1. Skin, trim and rinse chicken. Soak in salted water with lime wedges.
2. Place onion in large dutch oven or stockpot, without fat. Cook on medium-low, stirring frequently, until onions are tender. (about 15 minutes)
3. Meanwhile, infuse oil in a saucepan on low heat.
4. When onions have given up much of their moisture, stir in ginger, garlic and pepper. Cook for a minute. Add wine and reduce a bit. Strain infused oil into pot, discarding seasonings.
5. Remove chicken from brine and add to onions. Top off with water to just cover. Cook 45 minutes, allowing liquid to reduce. Add chipped spinach 5 minutes before end of cook time.
6. Serve over millet pilaf or other starchy goodness, with plenty of sauce and chopped cilantro.

Infused oil:
The original recipe called for infusing clarified butter with ginger, garlic, "1 tsp of fenugreek, 1/4 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp basil, 1/4 tsp cardamon seeds, 1 tsp of oregano and a pinch of turmuric."

For my version, I warmed light olive oil on the lowest burner, adding approximately those spices, a bit of fresh basil and oregano from the garden, some grated ginger, a smashed garlic clove, and a dash of cinnamon and hot chili powder (I'd use more next time). This recipe would adapt well to any variation of similar seasonings that you have on hand.

Millet (or quinoa) pilaf:
In a small saucepan, I toasted a few cumin seeds, a clove, and 3/4c millet with a dash of the infused oil until the millet started to turn golden brown and fragrant. Added 2c water and a hearty dash of salt, pepper, a bit of ginger, and a diced nectarine (dried apricot would be fine, or golden raisins). Simmer per the package directions and finish with fresh cilantro or basil.