Chef’s Night Out was inspired by this recipe from years ago. West African influenced chicken is a favorite in our home. Due to my culinary training and career, my personal palate is pretty extensive and continuously evolving. For those who cook from home or for your family, you may be hearing the call for adventurous cooking, but also perceive to be limited within your pantry.
Who really wants to spend over $50.00 for ingredients and prepare a meal for two or four and you realize your kids are never going to eat your masterpiece. At the end of the day the majority of us cook for an audience of one-eight family members and sometimes these are our worst food critics. If you’re looking for a chicken dish that is easy to make and classy, there is no need to continue your search.
What is West African Food
As the call for culinary adventure increases and you become more curious, and investigative I encourage you to take a glimpse into the world of West African food. If you consider yourself one who cannot have limits and flourishes when allowed to be creative and free, West African cuisine is ideal for you because it encompasses a diverse range of foods.
Hearing names such as Nigeria or Senegal did not originally attract me to the cuisine initially. I personally had my own misguided perceptions of what it actually entailed until I chose to study it a little closer. I came to discover my personal love for “spice” was the common thread throughout West African cooking. This type of food is always a work of art. The level of spicy heat is never overbearing, but gently laced throughout its creations. Each ingredient compliments the other instead of crafting a “hodge-podge” of ingredients and calling it a meal.
At its nucleus of the cuisine you will encounter the use wood-fire cooking, a well thought out network of spices and age-old grains. From there it expands into various vegetables known within West African food such as yams, plantains rice, and cassava (the root of a tropical tree that is carefully harvested for the purpose of removing cyanide from the skin).
There is not expectancy to having all of those ingredients nestled away in the dark forgotten areas of your home pantry. All I am saying is, diving into the world of West African food will take you down the never-ending rabbit hole, but in my opinion it is well worth the journey.
You can make this any day of the week. Due to the timing of the paste placed on your meat or fish of choice, I recommend making the paste the night before and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight. You can use this on chicken or fish.
For this recipe I chose to make it more “kid friendly” for our two daughters, with homemade mayo-infused mashed potatoes and fresh buttered broccoli. If I was cooking without the kids, I would suggest making white rice with asparagus. The rice compliments the spicy crust on your chicken or fish and prevents your mouth from overheating with spice.
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs or thighs with bone-in and skin
Ingredients for the paste:
1 Tablespoon of Paprika
2 Teaspoons of Granulated Garlic
1 Teaspoon of Granulated Onion
1 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1/4 Teaspoon Cayenne
2 Tablespoons Canola Oil
Step One: To make the paste: In a small bowl combine the paprika, garlic, onion, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Whisk in the canola oil.
Step Two: Place chicken thighs in a sealed zip lock bag and place in the refrigerator for 4 to 8 hours.
Step Three: Once the chicken spent the proper amount of time in the refrigerator, remove it from the plastic bag and let it come up to room temperature.
Step Four: While your chicken is getting accustomed to room temperature, set your oven to 375 degrees. Be sure to use a baking pan or dished lined with tin foil (easy clean up & you’ll thank me later).
Step Five: Prepare a saute’ pan or cast iron skillet (best results) with a few drizzles of olive oil. Enough to coat the pan for your chicken.
Step Six: Once your chicken has arrived at room temperature and your oven is heated to 375 degrees, turn on your burner to a medium-high heat. You want your olive oil hot and ready in the pan, but not creating smoke.
Step Seven: Place the chicken thighs in the pan. In order to avoid being splashed by the oil in the pan, lay the chicken thighs gently into the pan away from you. Sear the thighs over a medium-high heat. Watch for hot sizzling oil. Sear each thigh for 3-4 minutes each side. be sure to turn them over to get a nice even sear.
Step Eight: Once the chicken thighs display a nice seared or crispy outer layer it’s time to put them in the oven to finish the cooking process. If you’re working with an oven-proof saute pan, just place the entire pan in the oven. No oven-proof pan? I recommend removing the chicken from the pan and laying it on a foiled baking sheet. Once the thighs are on the needed tray or in the pan put the chicken in the oven. Cook until the chicken thighs have reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
Step Nine: Now the temperature of the chicken has reached 165 degrees internally, remove it from the oven. Let it rest for five minutes before slicing. The juices need to run clear.
Serve warm. How you choose to plate your West African chicken is a matter of choice. I chose not to use rice for this particular occasion because its a battle to have our kids eat rice. Mayo-infused mashed potatoes and buttered brocolli were the sides of choice. Honestly you can pair just about any side dish you prefer. The focus of this recipe is the chicken itself.
Makes 4 servings.
Are you’re looking for a enticing wine to pair with this dish? I have a suggestion for you. West African chicken can be served up with a bottle of 2018 Elena Walch Pinot Bianco from Southern Italy. It’s crisp, layered with fruit and helps keep you palate cooled appropriately while still enjoying the spicy dish.
Featured Wine Selection: 2018 Elena Walch Pinot Bianco can be found at Bag and String Wine Merchants
Looking for more delicious inspiration? Follow The Traveling Somm on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.