After returning from our African adventures, I treated friends to an African dinner. This was the main course and is said to have originated in Mali. Our travels did not include Mali, but did include meals with lots of veggies. Peanuts are often used in African cuisine. This recipe serves six. I made it for nine — adding another 50 percent of the ingredients.
1 1/2 cups unsalted roasted peanuts (1/2 lb.) or 1 cup “all natural” creamy peanut butter
3 cups water
4 1/2 to 5 1/2 lbs. chicken pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 garlic gloves, finely chopped
1 (14 to 16 oz.) can diced tomatoes including juice
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 lbs. sweet potatoes (2 medium), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
4 medium turnips (1 lb.), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 lb. spinach
(Rice is the suggested accompaniment, but I served it with couscous.)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. If using peanuts, blend in a food processor until they form a butter, 2 to 3 minutes. Put fresh or jarred peanut butter in a bowl and gradually whisk in 1 1/2 cups water
Pat chicken dry and season with salt. Heat oil in an ovenproof 4 to 5 quart heavy pot with lid (for later) over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown chicken, uncovered, in 3 or 4 batches without crowding, about 6 minutes. Transfer chicken to a bowl as browned. Pour off all but about 2 tablespoons fat from pot, then add onion and bell pepper and saute, stirring occasionally until onion begins to brown, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and saute, stirring, 1 minute.
Stir in peanut butter mixture, remaining 1 1/2 cups water, tomatoes with juice, cayenne (to taste), salt and chicken with any juices accumulated in bowl and bring to simmer. Cover pot with lid, then braise chicken in middle of oven until tender for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Transfer chicken with tongs to a large serving dish and keep warm, covered.
Stir potatoes and turnips into sauce and simmer on top of stove, uncovered until vegetables are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer cooked vegetables with slotted spoon to serving dish.
Simmer sauce, uncovered, stirring until reduced to about 4 cups, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in spinach, then let stand, partially covered, until spinach in wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt if needed, then spoon over chicken.
This is a great make-ahead recipe. Braise chicken in sauce without veggies a day ahead. Cool, then chill covered. Proceed with veggies and the rest of recipe as above the following day.