Lebanese Chickpea Stew

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The first post of 2013 has to be a winner–that’s a rule–and so it’s a huge relief to share with you a dish that I made for dinner the other night that’s such a winner, it portends very good things for the year to come.

I’m at the point now where I can read a recipe and I’ll know, pretty quickly, if it’ll be something that I’ll like or not. There has to be an X-factor, something sexy about it that intrigues me, that makes me go “Heavens to Betsy! What a good idea.” This Lebanese Chickpea Stew, which I found on BonAppetit.com, had that “Heavens to Betsy” quality I look for.

Specifically, it was the process: you brown chicken thighs (I used legs and thighs) in olive oil in a medium pot or Dutch oven.

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When they’re good and brown, you remove them and add a good amount of minced garlic:

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Before that gets too dark, you add ground cumin, tomato paste and red pepper flakes.

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The paste that forms was the factor that I knew would make things special: it incorporates the brown bits from the chicken and all of those potent flavors which get toastier as they cook, for a bit, in the oil.

Then you add water–though I added 1/4 cup white wine that I had lying around (you might try that) before adding the water–bay leaves and return the chicken back to the pot, where it simmers for 20 minutes until it’s tender:

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Meanwhile, you rinse two cans of chickpeas and chop up roasted red peppers which you can buy in a jar (or you can do them yourself). I chose jar:

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Here’s what happens: that liquid in the pot with the chicken and the paste? It gets thicker as it cooks so 20 minutes later, you have perfectly tender chicken and a thick, flavorful sauce. Take the chicken out, let it cool and then shred it with your hands. Add the chickpeas, the red peppers and the chicken to the pot:

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Then you finish things up with lemon juice and parsley:

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Take one taste and POW, you’re starting your year right.

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What’s so great about this recipe is that it’s actually really healthy (all of that protein!) but it doesn’t feel healthy at all. Make sure to serve it with good bread for sopping up the sauce. And you may want to double the recipe: Craig and I ate this whole thing ourselves in one round. It’s that good.

Recipe: Lebanese Chickpea Stew

Summary: A comforting, filling winter stew adapted from BonAppetit.com.

Ingredients

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 chicken thighs with legs still attached (the original recipe says “boneless, skinless” but I think that’s a terrible idea)
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (optional)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed, drained
  • 1/2 cup chopped drained roasted red peppers from a jar
  • Fresh lemon juice (from half a lemon)
  • Coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Instructions

  1. Coat the bottom of a medium pot or Dutch oven with olive oil and heat on medium-high heat. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, season aggressively with salt and then brown the chicken in the oil until it’s a deep, dark brown. (The best way to do this is not to move it for the first 4 to 5 minutes; then flip it over). Remove the chicken to a plate and turn the heat off for a few minutes before adding the garlic (otherwise it’ll burn). Also, if there’s a lot of rendered chicken fat in the pan, you may want to pour some of it out leaving a few tablespoons.
  2. Turn the heat back to medium-low, add the garlic and monitor carefully. When it’s fragrant but not at all brown add the cumin, tomato paste, and red pepper flakes; stir until a smooth paste forms, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the white wine, if you’re using it, scrape up the brown bits as it comes to a boil; then add 3 1/2 cups water along with a pinch of salt. (If you’re not using wine, just add 4 cups water…bring it to a boil first in a kettle or another pot, if you can, so you don’t slow down the cooking process.) Add the bay leaves and return the chicken to the pot; bring liquid to a simmer, put the heat on low and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until the chicken is tender.
  4. Transfer the chicken to a plate. Add the chickpeas to the pot; bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Shred the chicken and add to the stew, along with the red peppers. Taste for salt.
  5. Take the stew off the heat, add a splash more olive oil, lemon juice (to taste) and a generous sprinkling of parsley. Serve with good bread.

Quick notes

I say this makes 3 servings because I followed these amounts exactly and it fed 2 of us very, very well. (So if we were less greedy, a 3rd person could’ve eaten too). That said: why not buy 4 chicken thighs and keep everything else the same? That way you’ll feed 4 for sure.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 30 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 3

My rating 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)

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