Monday, August 2, 2010

Day 41: Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast)-Kedjenou Stew, Yams and Plantains- Up Next, Croatia (EU)

Since I started this blog, tonight's Ivory Coast is the 13th African country I've cooked in. I've got to admit that my family is getting a tad blase about African cooking. Although they've enjoyed every meal, it hasn't seemed to vary that much from country to country. Rice, plantains, cassava and ground nuts are the starches commonly used, and stews dominate most meals.  In part, this is undoubtedly because I'm not actually cooking in Africa, so I'm not privy to the countless other spices, dishes and variations known to those who live, cook and eat in Africa. That said, it's also a gentle reminder to my kids that they live in a country that offers them unparalleled choices and opportunities, food being one of the most basic and most important. So, to my often entitled teenagers, I say: stop complaining. Be thankful, be grateful and enjoy your good fortune. Yeah, Momma always gets the last word!

AND - a huge thank you to my beautiful and brilliant techie friend, Barbara, who helped me with the uploading difficulties that have plagued me since Blogger "improved" it's blogging functions.

The Republic of the Ivory Coast(Yamoussoukro)(AF): On the south coast of the western bulge of Africa, the Ivory Coast, or Cote d'Ivoire,  is bordered to the north by Mali and Burkina Faso, to the east by Ghana, to the south the Gulf of Guinea of the Atlantic Ocean and to the west by Liberia and Guinea.
Except for the Guinea Highlands in the northwest (from Man to Odienne), with peaks rising to 4000 and 5,000ft, the Ivory Coast is mostly a vast plateau, tilted gently towards the Atlantic. It is drained by four major rivers running roughly parallel from north to south, the Cavally (on the Liberian frontier), Sassandra, Bandama and Comoe. They are not of much value for transportation as they are sluggish in the dry season, broken by numerous falls and rapids and subject to torrential flooding in the rains.

The food of the Ivory Coast, or Côte d'Ivoire, has slow-simmered stews and a variety of starches and grains. Chicken and fish are popular. Tomatoes, eggplant and onions are important vegetables. Cassava root, plantains, and rice form the bulk of starchy calories. A popular dish is mafé, or sauce d'arachide, which is meat in peanut sauce. Side dishes include fried or mashed plantains and attieke, grated and cooked cassava. Small, local restaurants called maquis serve dishes like kedjenou, chicken stewed with tomatoes and vegetables.

For the Ivoirian dish of kedjenou, chicken and vegetables are slow-cooked in a well-sealed pot with little or no added liquid. The resulting dish has a full-flavored concentration of the chicken's essence and meltingly tender meat. Kedjenou is traditionally cooked in an earthenware jar called a canary over a slow fire. You can cook it in a pot in the oven.

The basic ingredients: yams, ginger, garlic, onions, tomatoes, egg plant and chicken

Doing the prep - a very easy meal to prepare

Brown the chicken in a heavy pot, add vegetables

Add the eggplant

Put foil over the pot, then place the lid over it to ensure a tight seal

Yams and plantains - I could live off this sweet combination


Let's eat!
A thing 'o beauty

4 to 6 servings

* Chicken, cut into serving pieces -- 2 to 3 pounds
* Eggplant, peeled and cubed -- 1 large
* Tomatoes, seeded and chopped -- 2 or 3
* Onions, thinly sliced -- 2
* Hot chili peppers, chopped -- 2 or 3
* Garlic, minced -- 2 or 3 cloves
* Ginger, minced -- 1 tablespoon
* Thyme -- 1 teaspoon
* Bay leaf -- 1
* Salt and pepper -- to season


1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Add all the ingredients to a large oven-proof pot with a tight-fitting lid. Cover the pot with one or two layers of aluminum foil and place the lid on top of the foil. * I set the oven at 350 because I was tight on time.

2. Place the pot in the oven and bake for 2 to 3 hours. Remove the pot from the oven occasionally and shake it to keep the chicken from sticking. I cooked it for about 1 1/2 hours.

3. Remove the pot from the oven. Let it rest for about 10 minutes. Serve hot with couscous, attiéké (see note), rice or boiled yams.

Final Assessment: This dish was very different from many of the African dishes I've made to date. The taste of the eggplant, ginger and hot peppers was wonderful. The vegetables provided all the liquid needed, and the chicken literally fell off the bones. Served atop mashed yams and plantains, it was a delicious and satisfying meal. I think it'll taste even better tomorrow!

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