Greek Chicken Stew With Cauliflower and Olives

19 02 2012

Spring’s here, and she demands parsley. This stew is healthy and easy and colorful and aromatic, light enough for the sun streaming in your kitchen window and rich enough to stave away any pesky winter winds asserting their waning presence. Kalamatas would be sublime; the green manzanillas I used were just dandy.

Make it with free-range chicken and you won’t regret it -I swear their liberty seeps merrily into the broth, saturating the cauliflower with wild chickeny depth you’d never squeeze out of cardboard-y 10-packs of pechuga.

Greek Chicken Stew With Cauliflower and Olives
adapted from The New York Times.

extra virgin olive oil
1 large red onion, chopped
4+ garlic cloves (to taste), minced
1 giant free-range chicken breast on the bone. Or thighs, or whatever – use your judgement here.
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes, with juice
1/2 teaspoon Saigon cinnamon
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cauliflower, cored, broken into florets, and sliced about 1/2 inch thick
about 15 manzanilla olives (or kalamata if you got ’em), rinsed, pitted and cut in half (optional)
small handful chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 to 2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (optional – I didn’t use it, but it would be a welcome addition)

1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat in a large, deep, heavy lidded skillet or casserole and brown the chicken, in batches if necessary, about 5 minutes on each side. Remove the pieces to a plate or bowl as they’re browned. Add the vinegar to the pan and scrape up all the bits from the bottom of the pan.

2. Add the remaining tablespoon of the olive oil to the pan, and turn the heat down to medium. Add the onion and a generous pinch of salt and cook, stirring often and scraping the bottom of the pan, until it is lightly browned and very soft.

3. Add the garlic and stir together for a minute or two more, until the garlic is fragrant, then add the tomatoes and their juice, the cinnamon, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and simmer 10 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the mixture is reduced slightly and fragrant.

4. Return the chicken pieces to the pot, along with any juices that have accumulated in the bowl. If necessary, add enough water to barely cover the chicken. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat, and simmer 15 minutes.

5. Add the cauliflower and olives and simmer for another 15 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender and the chicken is just about falling off the bone.

6. Take chicken out of pot, remove from bone, shred, and re-incorporate. Simmer just a minute more, stir in the parsley, taste and adjust seasonings. Serve with grains – black rice is nice – with feta sprinkled on top if you like.

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Doro Wat – Spicy Ethiopian Chicken, Tomato, and Onion Stew

19 01 2012

Doro what?

Okay, the easy joke’s out of the way. Doro wat is one of the most popular dishes in Ethiopia, and exemplifies all aspects of the cuisine that keep me coming back to Malasaña’s own Nuria. I tend towards restaurants that fix foods I can’t make nearly as well myself, and the spreads of saucy veg, egg, and meats ladled across spongy, slightly sour injera has always been a special treat out on the town. The particular mix of spices in each dish mesh to produce flavors wholly distinct from other schools of cooking with which I am more familiar (Thai, French, Mexican, Arabic…), and I’ve somehow always categorized them as Beyond My Kitchen Expertise.

This stereotypical shot of a kaleidoscope amalgamation of spices should be a clear enough indication: no more unfounded excuses. Casu Marzu‘s inspired me again, this time with an image of scored egg submerged in tomato paste spiked with spice. I need it immediately. I spend the morning scouring the musty, earthy shops of Lavapiés for berbere, the complex Ethiopian spice mixture based primarily on heaps of ground chile. A recurring pattern of blank shopkeeper looks send me back to the original recipe, whereupon I discover that I have nearly all the recommended spices at hand. Missing are fenugreek and allspice, which gives me the ideal excuse to poke my head in a corner of Madrid that’s been on my list for well over a year.

One jaunt through southern Malasaña later, and Spicy Yuli becomes my favorite store in the city. Spices by weight! Whole and ground! Curry mixes, galangal, ground cardamom, kaffir lime leaves, Sichuan pepper! This last one I pick up for good measure, along with the afore-sought allspice and fenugreek. Upon my proclaimed affinity for the spicy, the shopkeep gifts me a tiny packet of dry harissa, which she recommends I infuse with oil and enjoy with bread and olives. Mm-hmm.

The berbere comes together as a spectacularly red mountain of powder, insidiously coating the insides of my nostrils with hot paprika more than once. From here the prep could not be simpler, and my slight modifications to the original write-up add a splash of color in a scarlet sea.

One taste destroys me. It’s hot and earthy in a way that links me to my memories of Ethiopian eats at restaurants, yet far better. Fresher, more complicated. I find myself wanting to eat enormous amounts of the tomato-onion blend, to gobble fiery, saucy eggs until I burst. I content myself with reserving leftovers, but only just.

A small warning: I found myself absurdly hyped up after munching this around 10.30 PM, utterly unable to get any shut-eye until well into the wee hours of the morning. This morning I read up on hot paprika, and, in addition to being a top-notch source of vitamin C, it appears to be a stimulant. Doro wat may be best as afternoon food, or, alternatively, as late-night rocket fuel for long lasting groovy moves.

Doro Wat
adapted from As Warm as a July Tomato

1 1/2 tablespoon butter
1 large onion, diced
4-6 cloves garlic
1/2 cup berbere
1 can tomato paste
1 can whole tomatoes
1 whole small chicken, skinned, de-boned, and divided
hard boiled eggs, one per person
several healthy handfuls spinach

berbere (makes 1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek
1/4 cup ground chili
1/4 cup hot paprika
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon garlic
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon clove
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch allspice

1. Over low heat, sauteé the onion and garlic in the butter until onion turns translucent around the edges. Add in berbere and toss to coat.

2. Add tomato paste and mix well. Add can of tomatoes, dividing them with your spatula.

3. Add chicken pieces to pan plus some water until the mixture is semi-liquid; bring to a simmer and let cook about 20 minutes. Add more water along the way if mixture looks dry. You’re aiming for a thick stew-like consistency here.

4. Meanwhile, boil the eggs (one per person). Cool them under cold running water, peel, and score with a knife. Settle them in the pan and let cook with the rest for a minute.

5. Add spinach and mix. Let cook until wilted. Serve, with rice, couscous, or bread if you wish.