Friday, September 17, 2010

injera b'waht b'law-ho


Doro Wot with Injera
 One of my friendly co-workers at the Waldorf if Ethiopian - I finally asked her if there were any good Ethiopian restaurants to try around the area, and her first response was not an actual answer, but instead, "You like Ethiopian food?!" Why, yes! I'd venture to say that there are little to no cuisines that I dislike in the world - Ethiopian food is relatively simple, but extremely flavorful in that they use a ton of spices, leading to a great complexity (and great heat) in their dishes.  A typical Ethiopian meal consists of wot and injera - some type of spicy stew, whether made with beef, chicken, goat, fish, or just vegetables, and a giant flatbread/pancake that acts as a plate, utensils, napkin, you name it.  Fortunately, my coworker also proceeded to tell me that she would be getting a delivery or fresh, delicious, homemade injera the very next day from a friend! There was no way I could pass that offer up, and that ultimately resulted in an authentic Ethiopian feast in store for myself.

fresh injera
First, let's talk a little about the injera.  It's different than any bread around the world - it's made with a fermented sourdough batter (out of teff flour), and it comes out sometimes two feet in diameter! It has a unique spongy, and slightly sticky feel to it, and it is perfect for sopping up all of the delicious stews.  Injera also has a slighy tanginess to it due to the fermentation - this flavor component is the perfect complement to all of the wots and spicy dishes in Ethiopian cuisine.  Injera is also more than just bread - it's the center of a whole ritual of eating in Ethiopian culture. As I stated before, it has more uses than being just a "bread", but also acts as the centerpiece to dining, and family and friends coming together.   Everyone gathers around a giant injera topped with various wots and side dishes, and digs right in with their hands (right hand only!) - when the tablecloth is gone, the meal is complete, and it's time for some delicious Ethiopian coffee.  There is even a friendship ritual, goorsha, where one rips a piece of injera, rolls it up and feeds it to a friend as a sign of their relationship. I swear, only in America do we find people who are terrified of bread because they're too concerned about their figure - in so many other cultures, bread is such a focal point of family and community, it would be unheard of to shun it!

For my personal Ethiopian party, I decided to stick with doro wot - a SPICY stewed chicken.  The majority of dishes are made with berbere paste as a base - this is made with many different spices (recipe to follow), creating an extremely complex, spicy, savory, warming flavor component for the dishes.

just a couple of spices
The doro wot is generally made with chicken legs and thighs, stewed with the berbere, onions, garlic, ginger, and red wine or chicken stock.  I decided to stick with an entire chick from my friends John and Michael from Fazio Farms.  (PS: check out this great video from Food Curated of John showing his duck farm - I'm hoping to take a trip up with him in the coming weeks to check it out myself!) They have amazing rabbit and duck (probably some of the best I've had, especially the rabbit - plus their facilities are beautiful, and animals humanely raised), so I figured their chicken would be right up there as well!  Plus, when you get a full chicken, you can use the carcass to make a delicious stock, so you get more bang for your buck either way!

8-piece break down. 2 wings, 2 legs, 2 thighs, 2 breasts - it can be broken down even more by splitting the tender from the breast, and splitting each wing in two.
Speaking of the chicken, it turned out just as good (as expected) as John's other products - pre-cooking the meat had great color to it (even the breasts, which should be pink) - and there was a great layer of fat, showing that this was a happy chick (before getting to me, clearly).  For the doro wot, I took the skin off each piece as well.  

To start your Ethiopian meal off right, make the Berbere paste first - you can make it a day ahead of you like and just refrigerate it.  This makes about 3/4 c - 1 c of paste.  Depending on your sensitivity to spice you can either tone it down or amp it up with the amount of crushed red pepper, cayenne, and paprika you use.  I like heat, so the more the better! Also, if you don't have any of these spices whole, you can use the same amount ground, just skip the first step.

Berbere Paste
1 t cumin seeds
1-2 t crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 t cardamom seeds (you have to smash the pods to get the seeds out)
1/2 t Fenugreek seeds
4 whole peppercorns (I like tellicherry)
3 allspice berries
2 whole cloves
1 T hot paprika
1/2 T salt
1/2 t ground ginger
1/2 t turmeric
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1/4 t nutmeg
2 New Mexico dried chiles, charred and blistered over an open flame
1/2 onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1/4 cup olive oil
3-4 T water

Heat a saute pan over medium-high heat to toast your whole spices.  When the pan is up to temp, toss in the spices and toast for about two minutes.  The spices are done when a fabulous aroma rises out of the pan - be sure to take them out of the pan immediately when you start to smell this, or your spices may burn.  While you're waiting for the spices to toast (or after, it doesn't take long!), blister the the skin of the chiles over an open flame, let cool and roughly chop them (discarding the stems).

If you've used whole spices, put them all into a coffee/spice grinder and grind away until it has become a fine powder. Finally, place all of your solid ingredients and ground spices into a food processor or blender to start making the paste.  As soon as they have started coming together, slowly stream the oil into the processor while it's running. Add the water, one tablespoon at a time, until a thick paste has formed - if you need some more water, feel free to add it in.  Scrape this all out into a container and set aside for later, or refrigerate if you won't be using it immediately.  As you can probably tell, this paste is pretty serious - it has a delicious combination of spices, flavor and heat wise, none of which overpower the others - the raw onions and garlic add a tinge of pungency to the mix as well.

caution: hot!
With your berbere in hand, now it's time to start cooking away the main attraction!

Doro Wot
1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces -or- 2 lbs. chicken pieces, whichever you prefer
I lemon, juiced
2 T salt
1 onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 T ginger, peeled and finely minced
3-4 tablespoons olive oil or butter (Ethiopians use niter kibbeh, butter spiced with ginger, garlic and cinnamon)
1 dash of cinnamon (to make up for the above!)
1-2 T paprika
1/4 to 1/2 cup berbere paste
1 cup water or stock
Cayenne pepper to taste
Salt and Pepper to taste

To start, toss the chicken pieces with the fresh-squeezed lemon juice and salt, and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.  While the chicken is marinating, you can start prepping your vegetables. Generally, for the various wots, the pungent ingredients (onion, garlic, etc) are pureed themselves - for this recipe, I let them cook down whole a bit to add a better texture and look to the dish.  

Heat a saucepot big enough to hold all your chicken and then some over medium-low heat.  Swirl in your olive oil (or butter), as well as the cinnamon and paprika.  Let these come together for a couple minutes, and dump in your onions, garlic, and ginger.  Stir until they are all coated with oil, turn the heat down to low, and let them cook down for 15-20 minutes, or until the onions are tender.  You'll be getting some great smells inside your kitchen with this!  Next, scoop in the berbere paste and coat the onions - let this cook for a couple of minutes while stirring.  Finally, add in the water or stock, the chicken pieces (and the juice it's in), cayenne, a bit of salt and pepper, and stir to combine.  Bring this mixture to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for approximately 30-40 minutes.  Check the chicken after about 30 minutes to see where it's at - depending on the chicken it could only take this long.  The meat should be tender and almost falling off of the bone.

If the chicken is through cooking, remove it from the sauce and set aside.  Reduce the remaining liquid in the pot for about ten minutes until its a bit thicket - more like a stew than a broth.  Taste for seasoning, and add anymore salt and pepper if you think it's necessary.  Plate whichever chicken pieces you'd like, and pour some of the reduced liquid and onions over it.  Serve with or over injera if you have it, and enjoy!

tender to the bone
Holy Mackerel! This was absolutely delicious.  The spices from the berbere paste with the slow cooked onions created a delicious broth.  The chicken was ultra tender, flavorful and juicy from the broth it was cooked in - the different spices used also gave the dish beautiful color.  Finally, eating this with the injera was the icing on the cake.  The tangy, yeastiness of the bread was the perfect foil for the deep, spicy flavors of the doro wot.  I wanted to eat all of it, but figured eating an entire chicken to myself wouldn't be the best idea (besides, not having any leftovers). I topped it off with a little chervil for color, but it's not necessary in the long run.  Give this recipe a try - it'll warm you up all over and leave you craving for more! So, go throw on some Addis Ababa, dance around, and start cooking!


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