Chicken with Chili

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You’ll find this recipe in:
The Hundred Menu Chicken Cookbook
By: Robert Ackart
New York, 1972

Original Recipe:

Chicken with Chili – I

Like many dishes requiring several strong spices, this one is of elusive flavor.

You will need…
2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs oil
Serving-pieces of chicken for 6 persons
6 onions, chopped
1 - 3” piece stick cinnamon
Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
4 Tbs tomato paste
2 Tbs chili powder
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
½ cup red wine
1 ½ cups chicken broth
2 Tbs cornstarch
2 Tbs chopped fresh ginger root (optional)

In a casserole, heat butter and oil and brown chicken. Remove.

In remaining fat, cook onions until translucent. Add cinnamon stick.

Combine and blend well these ten ingredients.

To onions, add liquid mixture and cook over high heat, stirring, until sauce thickens. (Sauce will not be heavy; for thicker sauce, use an additional Tbs cornstarch). Add ginger root. Replace Chicken.

At this point you may stop and continue later.

Bake, covered, at 350º for one hour, or until chicken is tender.

From The Hundred Menu Chicken Cookbook’s Introduction:
I prefer the second joint, or thigh, it is more flavorful and moist than the other parts of the chicken, and much less expensive than the “socially acceptable” breast, which can be dry, stringy and flavorless.

To brown chicken, place the skin side down, season the up side with salt and pepper, when the chicken is turned, the seasoning will cook into the meat.

My Notes:

Following Robert Ackart’s advice, I decided to use chicken thighs for this recipe but “Serving-pieces of chicken for 6 persons” is a vague amount. I ended up purchasing 10 chicken thighs, but could have put 16 to 18 thighs in this recipe. The next day, I bought more chicken thighs, fried them and served them with the extra sauce.

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If you ask me over to your house to babysit, I will snoop in your kitchen while your baby sleeps and search for old cookbooks. That’s where I found The Hundred Menu Chicken Cookbook, nestled in my friends’ kitchen while baby Felix dreamt upstairs and I listened to Ralphie the dog’s belly gurgle.

I’ll be making Chicken with Chili again. It’s a warming full-flavoured chicken dish that I think I’d enjoy even more on a dark and cold winter’s night. The Hundred Menu Chicken Cookbook has the tagline “One-pot chicken recipes that are easy-to-make and a treat to serve”, so the recipe instructs us to both fry and bake this recipe in the same dish (I used my enameled Dutch oven), but I think Chicken with Chili would be an excellent slow-cooker recipe.

I was intrigued by Chicken with Chili because it claimed to be an Ethiopian recipe and I was skeptical about how accurate it would be, but it turns out that Chicken with Chili is reasonably similar to Doro Wat! If you compare ingredient lists of the two recipes, you’ll find they are mostly the same. Chicken with Chili doesn’t feature fresh garlic or the hard boiled eggs that are typically served in Doro Wat and the traditional spices have been substituted for spices that would have been found in the kitchens of most American families in 1972.

Chicken with Chili uses Chili Powder instead of Berbere, the Ethopian spice mix. A big difference between these two spice mixes is that Berbere packs the heat and not many people would call Chili Powder spicy. Since you’re putting 2 tablespoons of Chili Powder in Chicken with Chili, it creates a flavourful dish without the heat if you’re not a fan of spicy hot food.

Chili Powder is usually a combination of cayenne pepper, cumin, garlic powder, oregano, paprika and sometimes onion powder. Narrowing down the list of spices you may find in Berbere from English-language sources was a more difficult task. I’ve found Berbere recipes that call for a variety of spice combos containing chili peppers, garlic, ginger, basil, korarima, rue, ajwain, nigella, fenugreek. coriander, cumin, cardamom, allspice, cloves, black pepper, paprika, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, turmeric, star anise and onion flakes or powder.

Maybe there isn’t a definitive list of what spices to put in “authentic” Berbere. It could be that everyone’s Berbere is slightly different. It may also be the same case that we’ve found in Chicken with Chili: spices that traditionally would have been found in Berbere have been substituted for similar spices that are easier to source.

Feel free to add in your two cents. If you use Berbere powder or paste in your kitchen, comment and let us know what spices you like to use.

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Read the Cookbook: