I recommend buying a whole chicken and cutting it up yourself. A local, organic chicken is best, but if you’re on a very tight budget, you can use the most inexpensive kind. The dishes will be just as comforting. Sauté the livers and hearts and eat them as a little snack while you cook. Jacques Pépin calls that the chef’s treat. (I share them with the dog.) If there are any leftovers, you can throw them in a pot with the bones and make a second stock, or a potluck soup.
All four recipes start with a four-pound chicken cut into 10 pieces — two legs, two thighs, two whole wings, and four breast pieces. Each dish is cooked in one heavy casserole pan or Dutch oven following the same basic technique, and each feeds from four to six people.
Ghana: West African Groundnut Chicken
This is a beautiful dish that features peanut butter as a thickener, giving it a sophisticated, satisfying flavor. Season the chicken to make it as mild or spicy as you wish.
- 4 lb. chicken, cut into 10 pieces
- Salt, cayenne, and ground coriander to taste
- 1/8 cup vegetable oil
- 1 rib celery, cut into 1/4-inch sections
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1 half-inch cube of ginger, peeled and minced
- 2 cups cubed fresh sweet potatoes
- 14 oz. can whole tomatoes
- 1½ cups water
- 1 cup okra, sliced (optional)
- ½ cup smooth peanut butter
2. Heat the oil in a heavy casserole. Brown the chicken nicely on all sides, remove and reserve on a plate.
3. Add the celery, onion, ginger and garlic to the pan, and wilt over medium-high heat for two minutes.
4. Add the tomatoes, sweet potatoes and chicken. Break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Add water and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook gently for 45 minutes or until the chicken is done. If using the okra, add it and cook for an additional five minutes.
5. Remove the chicken and vegetables and arrange on a deep serving platter. Skim any grease from the sauce. Add the peanut butter and whisk in well to incorporate. Cook one minute to bind, then pour the sauce over the chicken.
Something green? Add a bright Mediterranean-flavored salad with a lemony dressing, and maybe couscous on the side.
Wine: A New York Riesling or Gewurztraminer would be perfectly matched with this nutty, perfumy dish.