Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Minimalist Peanut Chicken Stew

Here at Raisinhater headquarters, we sometimes have a little problem getting rid of stuff. Specifically, old sections of the New York Times Wednesday food section. There are always a few recipes in there that I intend to try out. Yes, I could clip them and file them somewhere, but then I'd forget about them until the next time we move and just throw them away, potentially losing forever a recipe for something as delicious as Staff Meal Chicken or Prosciutto Balls.

Egads! So, instead, I save them in plain view around the apartment so they can torment me. At least that’s what old MeBeth Raisinhater used to do. But no longer – as of today I am turning over a new leaf. The new improved MeBeth Raisinhater is going to try at least one recipe from the new food section every Wednesday night. Then she is going to recycle the rest of the section rather than letting it lurk around the apartment to generate guilt and clutter.

Today, I chose Creamy Peanut Chicken Stew. There were other great options - I was particularly tantalized by the idea of making my own bacon, but I wasn't sure if I could find (or carry) a 5lb slab of pork belly on the way home from the office, and I don't have the patience to wait 7 days for it to cure. Also, the Kabocha Salad with Greens, Bacon, Cheese, and Pecans sounded good (mmm, bacon!) but I don't know what kabocha is, so that pretty much ruled it out.

Here’s the recipe for Creamy Peanut Chicken Stew (shamelessly copied from the New York Times)…

2 tablespoons corn, grapeseed or other neutral oil
8 bone-in chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
Salt and pepper
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon curry powder or garam masala
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup boiled and shelled fresh peanuts or ¾ cup peanut butter
Chopped parsley, for garnish.

1. Put oil in deep skillet or casserole and turn heat to medium-high. When oil shimmers, put chicken in skillet, skin side down. Season with salt and pepper and brown well, rotating and turning pieces as necessary; process will take 10 to 15 minutes. Remove meat and drain all but 2 tablespoons of fat.

2. Add onion and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Stir in curry powder and cayenne pepper and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds. Add cream and stock and bring to a boil; cook until slightly thickened, 1 or 2 minutes. Stir in peanuts if using.

3. Return chicken to casserole, bring to boil, then lower heat and simmer, turning occasionally, until chicken is cooked through and tender, 20 to 30 minutes. If using peanut butter, whisk it together with about 1 cup of the hot cooking liquid until smooth, then stir back into the simmering pot. Taste and adjust seasonings, garnish and serve.

I decided to halve the recipe (two servings), and serve it over jasmine rice with collard greens on the side. Here’s my chicken, browning away...

I don’t have a deep skillet or a casserole, so I used a big pot, to no noticable disadvantage. Everything chugged along smoothly until I got to the point where I added the peanut butter. As instructed, after 25 minutes or so I whisked the peanut butter together with a few spoonfuls of hot cooking liquid, and returned it to the pot. The sauce thickened and became gloppy; it didn’t really look all that much like stew. More like the texture of takeout Indian food. Perhaps I was a bit overzealous in my reducing? Here it is on the plate (sans garnish because I forgot)...

Hellooooo PEANUT! I enjoy peanuts, peanut butter, and peanut noodles, but this was perhaps too much. The peanut butter definitely overshadowed the curry, onions, and ginger. Next time I'd use half as much and would add more chicken broth (or reduce less) for a thinner and more stew-like sauce. It wasn't dreadful, in fact it was fairly tasty, I just think it could've been so much better with a bit more liquid and a lot less peanut.

Collard greens were the big winner of the night. I used an incredibly easy recipe adapted from epicurious. Finely chop two pieces of bacon and heat over medium high heat in a skillet until crispy and brown. Slice the leaves from one bunch of collard greens in half, removing the tough middle stems.

Roll up the leaves like cigars and slice thinly. You’ll end up with a huge plateful of collard green strips. It will seem like a massive portion - fear not, it will be ok somehow. Throw them in the pan with the cooked bacon and toss around for a minute or so on medium. They will turn bright green and reduce in size (as promised). Salt generously.

Their bitter bite is a perfect match for the creamy peanut-buttery chicken and would go well with most other rich treats like macaroni and cheese.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This i need to try!

4:42 PM  

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