Well, this is Labor Day weekend in the US, the holiday that celebrates the worker so that we can jam-pack our three-day weekend under the premise of “relaxing” when in reality, it leaves us just as tired than if we just went to work. And after having several weeks of unseasonably cool weather, the temperature outside was a whopping 95 degrees, with a heat index of 105! In comparison, the temperature in Abidjan was 79. So, needless to say that our air conditioning was struggling to keep up with the humidity, and it was hotter inside than it was outside. I think I would’ve rather been there.
But it certainly didn’t stop us from having an awesome meal. I made the quickest thing first, which was the Gingered Avocados, or Avocats au Gigembre (because everything sounds better in French). I first squeezed the juice from one lime and added a quarter tsp of ground ginger. Then I diced two avocados and mixed it with the ginger-lime juice and chilled until it was ready to eat. I liked it, but the kids weren’t wild about it, which is weird because they like my guacamole.
Then I started on the main dish, Chicken Kedjenou. This is pretty much the unofficial national dish. I actually wanted to make a dish called chicken crapaudine, because I thought the name was funny, but the recipe sounded so good: chicken, tomatoes, onion, garlic, parsley and ginger cooked in a pot, then served with a side of fried potatoes. But I changed my mind at the last minute, because as I flipped through a preview of Marguerite Abouet’s Aya on Amazon, it included a recipe for chicken kedjenou. It’s somewhat similar to the chicken crapaudine in a way that it’s a stew made in a pot with a tight-fitting lid. For this, I cut up three small eggplants (often called aubergines in recipes), some onion, a poblano pepper in lieu of a hot chili, two cans of diced tomatoes, a little ginger, a bay leaf, a sprig of thyme, garlic, some chicken stock, a little oil, and I added two split chicken breasts. Everything goes into the pot, and it cooks down for between 1 and 1 ½ hours.
|Chicken kedjenou. Truly is a comfort food. Next time, I'll try it with shrimp as well.|
I served this with fufu, a sticky dough-like paste that is taking with the fingers and rolled into balls, and we just put it into the stew as we were eating it. (I cheated a little and bought a fufu mix from a box from the international grocery store. The name fufu always reminds me of that children's song "Little Bunny Fufu.") Because it was so sticky, the kids weren’t really impressed with the texture. I thought it reminded me of those sticky rice cakes I had in Japan. The stew was amazing. I loved it, and my husband told me this is something that I have to do again. Most definitely. Some recipes I read included okra (which I left out due to my husband’s insistence that okra and other members of the squash family will kill him on instant contact), and some recipes called for prawns.
And finally, for the bread, I chose to make coconut shortbread, or sablés coco. First I had to separate the yolks from the egg whites from two eggs into two separate bowls. I poured a half-cup of sugar into the egg yolks and stirred until it turned a pale yellow and was thick. Then I added the flour, the coconut, and two Tbsp of rum (I chose Malibu coconut rum) and stirred to make it generally consistent. Then I put a pinch of salt into the bowl with the egg whites and the recipe said to mix until it was stiff and glossy. It never did get stiff and glossy. I figure at this stage in the game, I should probably invest in a hand mixer. So, I just poured the egg whites into the other bowl as is and folded it until everything was mixed together. Then I dropped the mixture onto a lightly greased cookie sheet, as if it were a cookie, and baked it for 15 minutes. It turned out to be the best part of the meal. I loved these! And they were certainly a hit with my family. In fact, I had these for breakfast.
This meal turned out to be really good. Although as I’m sitting here writing this, I just realized that Côte d’Ivoire is the number one producer of cocoa, yet I didn’t really see many chocolate recipes, not did I choose one. But regardless, I thought it was really good. I’m always a sucker for the one-pot meals – as a busy mom, these are great. And I didn’t really have to run my oven, either. The great thing about the chicken kedjenou is that even though I made it on the stove, I could have easily made it in a crock-pot. And really, the coconut shortbread didn’t take that much time to make, nor did the gingered avocados. I always like quick, easy-to-make recipes that I can do during the week when I get home from work, or have ready to eat when I get home. These were perfect dishes that I know I can use later as well.
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