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RECIPE: Kedjenou (Ivory Coast)

This slow-cooked chicken stew is a popular dish in the Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), where the less-than-tender poultry benefits from the long cooking time. It is sometimes prepared by wrapping the ingredients in banana leaf packets and grilling them on hot coals, as is done with Liboké de Poisson or Liboké de Viande.

More often the cooking method is to place the ingredients in a tightly sealed jar-shaped clay cooking pot called a canari or canary which is also placed on hot coals. The canari is gently turned or shaken periodically as the Kedjenou cooks, to keep it from sticking.

Kedjenou can be adapted to an oven cooking pot, a large pot, like a dutch oven, on the stovetop, a slow cooker like a Crock-Pot®, or even a pressure-cooker.

Whatever the cooking method it is important that the cooking vessel be closed with a tight-fitting cover so that moisture and steam do not escape.

What you need

  • two to three pounds of chicken, cut into serving-sized pieces
  • one large eggplant (also known as aubergine), or preferably a few small ones; peeled, cut into pieces, and salted — and/or — several okra, cleaned and chopped
  • one or two onions, chopped
  • one hot chile pepper, cleaned and chopped
  • three or four tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • one small piece of fresh ginger
  • one bay leaf
  • one piece of thyme
  • one or two cloves of garlic, minced
  • half cup of water or chicken broth or stock
  • one spoonful of peanut oil, or other cooking oil (optional, but more necessary if you use skinless chicken pieces)

What you do

  • Combine all ingredients in a large cooking pot. Stir until everything is well mixed. Seal the pot with a tight-fitting lid. One way to ensure a tight seal (as is sometimes done in Indian cooking) is to first tightly cover the pot completely with aluminum foil, then put the lid over it.
  • Cook in a medium-hot oven, or over low heat on the stovetop, or on the embers of a wood fire. Do not remove the lid after you have started cooking. Whatever cooking method is used, it is important to gently turn or shake the cooking vessel every five to ten minutes during cooking. Cook for ninety minutes or more, check for doneness, and cook more if needed. (If you use a crock-pot, cook according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and skip the turning or shaking.)
  • In Cote d’Ivoire, Kedjenou is usually served with attiéké (a starchy side dish made from cassava flour which is like something between Couscous and Fufu or Banku & Kenkey). It is also served with Rice.

Northern Africa’s tagine, a round terra cotta cooking pot with a cone-shaped top, is rather similar to the Canari. And a Chicken and Vegetable Tagine (like Tagine of Chicken, Preserved Lemon, & Olives) — the word refers both to the cooking pot as well as a stew cooked in it — might be rather like Kedjenou; though in North Africa Lamb Tajine is more popular. One difference is the tagine’s top has a sort of chimney to allow some steam to escape. The canari is sealed to retain as much moisture as possible.

The canari cooking method is similar to the tanjia or tangia of Morocco, in which the earthenware cooking pot is placed on the coals used to heat a hammam (a public steam bath).

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