Virginia Willis’ West African Chicken Stew with Collard Greens and Peanuts
Serves: 6 to 8
Hands On Time: 1 hour and 0 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes
4 cups homemade chicken stock or reduced-fat low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 sweet onion, chopped
2 carrots, diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 Scotch bonnet or habanero pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 bay leaf, preferably fresh
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 cups loosely packed chopped collard greens
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Combine the stock and tomato paste in a large measuring cup or bowl. Whisk or stir until no lumps of tomato paste remain. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Add the chicken to the pot and sear it, in two batches if necessary to avoid crowding, until brown on all sides, 8 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate. Set aside.
Add the onion, carrots, and bell pepper to the pot and cook, stirring, until the onion is soft and translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger; cook until fragrant, 45 to 60 seconds. Add the stock mixture, peanut butter, Scotch bonnet, bay leaf, coriander, cumin, and cinnamon; stir until smooth. Add the chicken, collard greens, and sweet potatoes.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the vegetables are tender, 25 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Ladle into warm bowls and serve immediately.
Photo: Angie Mosier
About the recipe
The peanut likely originated in South America and spread throughout the New World via Spanish explorers. It now grows in tropical and subtropical regions throughout the world, including the American South. The first known printed recipe for peanut stew comes from an 1847 cookbook by Sarah Rutledge, a housewife from South Carolina, who published a recipe for “Ground Nut Soup.”
However, it’s important to understand that enslaved Africans introduced peanut stew to the South. There’s perhaps no greater expert on the food and foodways of the African diaspora than Dr. Jessica B. Harris. She is the author of twelve critically acclaimed cookbooks documenting the food and culture of Africa in the Americas. According to Jessica, peanut stews are found across West Africa, originally made with indigenous groundnuts before the peanut arrived from the New World in the sixteenth century.
The list of potential ingredients in this hearty stew often extends to okra, tomatoes, hot peppers, and ginger, but it’s the indispensable peanut that gives this dish its essential earthy character.
This recipe for West African Chicken Stew with Collard Greens and Peanuts is excerpted from “Secrets of the Southern Table,” © 2018 by Virginia Willis. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.