Monday, June 16, 2014

African chicken via Macau

Like Portuguese Chicken, this dish represents many of the colonies that Portugal once possessed in its globe-spanning empire. However, instead of Goa in India, this recipe from Macau proudly shows off its African roots through the use of peanut butter and peppers. 

In other ways, this also suggests the Algerian dish djej bil besla, or “chicken with onions.” But it is made more Chinese through the addition of five-spice powder, coconut milk, and shredded coconut, as well as a mound of shallots and garlic instead of onions.

Galinha à Africana is still popular in Macau, where it is served with or without potatoes, and usually with a mound of fluffy steamed rice. The cheesy-tasting sauce is exquisite, and so it is imperative that you serve lots of rice to sponge up every drop.
Definitely not Chinese stuff

As my husband said when he first tried it, “This does NOT taste Chinese!” And it doesn’t. 

It does not taste of Africa, either.

It tastes of Macau.

African chicken (Galinha à Africana)
Fēizhōu jī 非洲雞
Serves 4 to 6

Chicken and spice rub:
4 whole chicken legs (including thighs)
1 teaspoon coarsely ground dried chilies (not too hot)
¼ cup finely chopped shallots
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
½ teaspoon five-spice powder
½ teaspoon sea salt
Peanut or vegetable oil as needed
2 large baking (Russet) potatoes, optional but terrific

¼ cup unsalted butter
2 cups chopped shallots
¼ cup chopped garlic
2 red or orange bell peppers, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
¼ cup sweet paprika
Potatoes are great in this
2 (13- to 14-ounce) cans coconut milk
1 cup shredded coconut (unsweetened)
½ cup peanut butter, chunky or smooth
2 bay leaves
2 cups chicken broth, salted or unsalted
Sea salt to taste

¼ cup finely chopped parsley

1. Clean and dry the chicken and sever the joint between the legs and thighs. Slash the thicker parts of the meat so that the seasonings can penetrate it. Mix together the chilies, shallots, paprika, five-spice powder, and salt, and then rub this into the chicken. Place the chicken in a resealable plastic bag and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

2. Heat a wok until hot, add the oil, swirl the wok around to coat the inside, and then add the chicken. Turn the heat down to medium and brown the chicken on all sides. Spray a 13 by 9 inch casserole with oil. Remove the chicken to the casserole. If you are adding the potatoes, cut them into thin wedges (no larger than ⅛ inch on the outside edge), place in a small work bowl, and cover with water so that they do not brown.  Place a rack in the middle of the oven and heat it to 400°F.

Tastes cheesy & rich
3. To make the sauce, add the butter to the wok, place it over medium heat, and add the shallots, garlic, and peppers. Cook the aromatics until they have wilted but not yet browned, and then add the paprika, coconut milk, shredded coconut, peanut butter, chicken stock, and bay leaves. Bring the sauce to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until thickened, and then taste and add salt as needed.

4. Drain the potatoes, if using, and add them to the casserole. Pour the sauce over the chicken and potatoes so that every piece is coated. Bake the casserole uncovered for about 1 hour, or until the sauce has browned lightly and both the potatoes and chicken are cooked through. Dust the top with the parsley. Serve hot with lots of steamed rice.

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