The Iceman Cometh

Or at least the polar vortex, which is slated to make a return to the Midwest.1 So, when the cold boomerangs back, my thoughts (after muttering a few choice “French” words) turn to stews and braises. Tonight’s dinner? A rather bastardized version of Choucroute Garnie, that wonder from Alsace, made with on-hand and local meats–Pennsylvania Dutch ham shank, local jowl bacon, and local Andouille sausage. Not exactly the stuff of tradition, but the called-for bratwursts would have had to have been purchased at the supermarket and I’m trying to avoid factory-farmed meats.

Yesterday I purchased a local pastured chicken (dead, plucked, and frozen!), which is thawing in my refrigerator right now, perhaps to be turned into West African Chicken Peanut Stew–one of my favorites (and a recipe I haven’t made in some time). Winter and cold are made for stews and braises, which seem out of place in warmer weather and climes–a silver lining for those of us suffering from an unrelenting winter (okay, ONE relent–the 40s and 50s of last week!)

West African Groundnut (Peanut) Stew

Nketia Fla (en-KEH-tee-ah flaw)

1-1/2 to 2 lbs. skinned chicken parts (I use thighs or leg quarters split into thighs and drumsticks; you can use skinless thighs as well, but not breasts)
-can also use 1-1/2 lbs. chuck or round steak

1 large or 2 medium onions, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
Dried red peppers (crushed) or cayenne pepper (to taste)
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 can stewed tomatoes (plain) or diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups water
1 plantain, chopped
1 sweet potato, chopped
¾ to 1 cup natural peanut butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

In 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat, brown chicken or beef (need not be completely cooked through). Remove when done. In same pot, add 1 tablespoon oil and onions over medium heat. Cook until soft. Add garlic and cook for another minute or two, being careful not to let garlic burn.

Add tomatoes, ginger, pepper, and salt. Sauté for a couple of minutes. Add water and reserved chicken or beef. Turn heat up to high and add plantain and sweet potato. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down and simmer (covered) for 30-40 minutes, until meat is tender. Remove about ¼ to ½ cup of stew liquid and mix it with peanut butter in a bowl. Stir peanut butter mixture back into stew. Cover and simmer for another 30 minutes, stirring frequently. If needed, add more water to thin stew. Season to taste with more salt and red pepper. Serve over rice.

I sometimes add chopped cabbage as well, which works well.

1This is perhaps my favorite Eugene O’Neill play–I’ve only ever read it, but I wish I had been able to see it staged with Kevin Spacey in the lead!