Spicy Tangy Peanut-ty West African Stew

It’s been a cold or wet winter, alternating between dry days with highs in the 30s and balmy 40+F torrential downpours. Last week’s rides were in 29F windchill so needless to say it’s been soupfest and stewvana at Chez Gekiuma. Nothing like hearty, hot liquids (and a lumpy, fuzzy throw) to warm up your bones from those arctic winds. And while I’ve been good about braving the elements, I’ve been bad about posting (bad blogger!) which I will try to rectify as one of my 2015 resolutions 😅

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This stew is very hearty and while it tastes scrumptious with chicken, swapping the chicken for vegetable stock and chickpeas makes it a winner for meatless munching too. The spicy harissa plays off the zesty undertones of ginger and garlic and in combination with the tart lime and tangy tomatoes helps to cut through some of the nutty richness of the peanut butter. I’m fortunate to have a local market that let’s you use fresh dry roasted and otherwise unadulterated nuts to make your nut butter du jour for all your sandwich-y and saucy needs. The yams provide hearty starchy goodness in more of a slow-release form than white potatoes if you’re worried about your glycemic index (GI) (54 vs 82), which is a measure of your blood sugar response to specific carbohydrate-based foods where the simple carbohydrate glucose is 100. Besides the fact that they’re chock full of vitamin C, potassium, manganese, and fiber, the yams add some sweetness to balance out the spicy heat, salt, and tang. I prefer yams over sweet potatoes because ironically while they have a lower GI, they actually taste sweeter as well as adding a nice color cuz we eat with our eyes too, ya know? Sweet. I’ve added kale not only for the nutrients (vitamin K, manganese, copper, and fiber) but also for those pops of green and the fact that it doesn’t get slimy or bitter with stewing which is always a plus in my cookbook. So after sloshing your way through the elements why not replenish your glycogen stores and rebuild those tattered muscles with a hearty stew that only requires your superpowers to be peeling and chopping vegetables, shredding falling off the bone tender chicken, and toasting pita bread? Actually, the hubster and beta-testers enjoyed this so much I may have to find a way to sneak it onto the menu when the weather warms up😀 And before you balk at the added work of stripping chicken legs and the added fat, don’t discount all that marrow-y flavor goodness they add to the stew and by removing the skin and lumps of fat the fat content takes a nosedive too but feel free to use chicken breast or yummy chickpeas if your heart desires.

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What’s the what?
1) Couldn’t I just make life easier and dump everything into a slow cooker and forget it until dinner time? Erm, no? Caramelization is your friend and one of the cheapest and easiest ways to cram even more flavor into your food and considering how slow my metabolism is, I’m going to make every calorie taste the best that it can. So sauté the aromatic ginger and garlic, caramelize your onion, and brown those legs before busting out your crock pot. You’ll be able to taste the difference. For reals.
2) Why cook half of the yams first? The starchy yam cubes provide just the right amount of thickening to the stew giving it heft and a velvety texture. I like to gently smash the cubes before adding the final half which will remain as solid starchy islands to be chomped by the stewy spoonful. Yum.
3) While I lurrve kale, I’m not a big fan of the tough, fibrous central stem so just rip that baby out. You can easily peel the leaf off the stem, discard the stem, line up the leaf halves and then just rip them into bite-sized pieces. Voilà, 1 cup of kale in 2 minutes.

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Ingredients
1 + 1 tbsp vegetable oil (I used peanut oil)
4 chicken legs, skin removed
1/4 + 1/4 tsp sea salt (or substitute half the amount with table salt)
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 small sweet onion, finely diced
2 tbsp (~3 inches) crushed ginger
2 tsp (~4 cloves) crushed garlic
4 c low-salt chicken stock (I used Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base)
14.5-oz can diced tomatoes (I used fire roasted tomatoes with chilies)
1-2 tbsp harissa paste, depending on how spicy you like it (I used 2 tbsp)
1 c unsalted, unsweetened peanut butter
1 tbsp honey
1 large bay leaf
2 medium-sized yams or sweet potatoes, peeled and in 1-inch cubes
4-6 large leaves of kale, deveined and torn into 1-inch pieces
1 large lime
Pita bread (or substitute steamed rice if eating gluten free)

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In a ~3-4 quart Dutch oven or large pot heat 1 tbsp oil over high heat. Season chicken with 1/4 tsp sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Brown chicken legs on both sides ~4-5 minutes per side. If you have a wimpy burner, brown 2 legs at a time otherwise you won’t have enough heat to brown them and your delicious Maillard reaction will be bland from steaming the chicken. (Yes, I know, the photo shows 5 legs not 4 because I’m lame and forgot to take a photo so I used one from another dish which starts out the same but quickly becomes southeast Asian. Gasp!) Remove chicken from heat, keeping oil in pot, and set aside. Reduce heat to medium and add remaining oil then sauté onion, ginger, and garlic till onion is soft and translucent. Return chicken legs to pot with remaining sea salt, chicken stock, tomatoes, harissa paste, peanut butter, honey, bay leaf, and half of the yams, stirring to combine. ** Reduce heat to med-lo, cover, and simmer till chicken is tender and falling off the bone ~45-60 minutes. Remove chicken legs from heat and set aside in a dish or shallow bowl till cool enough to handle ~10-15 minutes. Pull meat off the bone and discard any attached cartilage or tendons (or set them aside for your favorite dew-clawed buddy) then return chicken to pot. Add remaining yams and kale then simmer till the second set of yams are easily pierced with a fork. The first set of yams will have mostly become macerated giving the stew a nice, thick consistency like a chunky chowder. Cut lime in half and squeeze juice into stew, stirring to combine. Add additional sea salt, harissa, or lime juice if you like it more salty, spicy, or tangy. Discard bay leaf.

Heat a small skillet over med-hi heat. Spritz a small amount of water on the hot skillet then add a pita. I just wet my fingers and flick the droplets like I do on the hubster’s face onto the skillet. This keeps the pita from getting too dry but will still give you a crispy outside and fluffy inside. Heat till slightly puffy feeling on top and golden brown on the bottom then flip, spritz, and heat other side till golden brown. Repeat with remaining pita bread. I usually like to serve 1 pita for light eaters and 2 for hubby piglets heartier eaters. Serve with stew. Makes 6 servings.

**If you want to bust out your slow cooker, now’s the time to dump everything in except for the lime juice and cook on med-hi. You won’t get as many intact chunks of yam but it’ll taste great just the same🙂

About Cam

Enjoying the hippie life in Portlandia :)

3 comments

  1. The weather has been weird lately — Friday was so beautiful and then Saturday was just dreadful. (I’m really hoping we’ll coast on through to spring with no surprise snowfall like last year.) This looks like the perfect dish to enjoy after a cold and rainy ride. I love anything with kale in it for much the same reason — flavorful but never slimy. And I’ve been on a bit of a sweet potato kick lately….Hm!

  2. simply damn delicious and comforting stew….

  3. Hi Cam, just dropping by to see if you had any new posts up. Lovely to revisit this recipe. I had intended to try it and forgot, so now I’ve copied it. Autumn is not far off, and this will make a good dish for those cooler days.

    Hope you return to blogging soon!

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