Monday, April 5, 2010

Smoor chicken

10 March 2009

I had every intention of roasting a poussin for myself last night - an iddy widdy baby chicken, yes...but then I berated myself: you eat a roasted little chicken EVERY Monday night! Something about Mondays...

Then I remembered a favourite, long forgotten. Chicken smothered in slow-cooked onions. Smoor means smother in Afrikaans, and smoorsnoek is a traditional, and delicious, Cape fish dish. Having read Mary Coleman's post about chana Punjabi with chicken, though, I also craved some ginger. What to do?

First stop, Sahadi's, to buy a pestle and mortar (ever since making aioli this way in Cape Town I realize how uniquely creamy the texture is of pestle-squished garlic). Then I picked up some chicken thighs. I had the other ingredients at home.

For two:

A dab of olive oil
4 chicken thighs
2 finely sliced onions - I used red.
A peeled finger of ginger. Make it a thumb.
3 garlic cloves
1 tsp powdered coriander
1 tsp sumac (substitute a squeeze lemon/lime)
1 tsp hot chile flakes (I used Turkish ones, dark and slightly salty)
White vermouth, about half a cup (or water or wine or ....stock?)
Salt, pepper

On the stove, brown the chicken both sides. Add the onion. While that is sweating, pound till crushed the garlic and ginger in the mortar (add some salt to help). Add this to the pan and stir. Add the spices, add the Vermouth. Add water to reach top of chicken pieces. Bring to a simmer, clap the lid on, lower the heat, and cook for about 1 1/2 hours. You could easily cook this in the oven, too. In fact I finished mine under the broiler to brown it. Also take the lid off about an hour into cooking, to allow for evaporation and its consequence - concentration of flavour and slight caramelization - to happen.

Other idea. Leave out listed spices and substitute 4 allspice berries and 2 bay leaves.

Serve with rice. Very important for its the juice-catching properties...

Absorbtion method: I always toast basmati rice first, then add double its own amount of water plus half. So if it's one cup of rice, add two cups of water plus half a cup. And don't forget salt. Boil furiously for a minute, then cover and cook as low as the flame can go. You can even turn the heat off, if you put a cloth between the lid and the pot. Most economical in these uncertain times.

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