Cheap Eats:
Chicken à la N’Gatietro

The Aztecs called them thalcacahuate. In Peru, they were anchic. When they reached Africa, they were identified with the local nguba. From Africa, they came with slaves to the U.S., still carrying the African name nguba, or goober, as it was later popularized. Today, in Africa they are called groundnuts. In the U.S., we call them peanuts, although they are more pea than nut. Oddly enough, though we think of them as an American food, we, of all those along the peanuts’ long migratory path, use them the least of all the countries where they have been adopted. (In Africa and Indonesia, they are amazed to learn that Americans use them as a spread for bread.)

Thomas Jefferson, that most dedicated, astute, and innovative of gardeners and gourmets, may have been the first to grow the plant in the U.S. George Washington Carver was admitted to the Columbia University Hall of Fame for having discovered three hundred uses for the peanut. Carver once gave a dinner party where every item on the menu, from soup to "chicken" to coffee substitute, was made from peanuts. He still didn’t manage to convince Americans that this was a serious food crop.

Everyone else in the world was convinced, however. Today, it is one of the world’s fifteen leading food crops. Because of its high protein content — 26 percent of its weight is protein, exceeded only by the soybean — it is among the most important foods in international trade. It is cheap and nourishing, easy to grow, and a particular blessing in countries plagued by locusts, since the pods grow underground, and therefore remain untouched even when the above ground foliage is destroyed. In Asia, peanuts appear in myriad dishes, from the whole peanuts in kung pao to the peanut sauce of satay. In Africa, they are of even greater importance, with groundnut stews, peanut soups, and a wide array of foodstuffs sauced or garnished with peanuts.

In addition to protein, peanuts are a good source of iron. Not only do they have no cholesterol, it has been shown that reasonable consumption (about an ounce a day) appears to correlate favorably to a reduction in heart disease. Peanuts also contain zinc, good for protecting brain function, and boron, which can help prevent osteoporosis. However, peanuts are high in calories, and so should not be consumed with abandon. Also, it is wise to avoid them if you have a tendency to get kidney stones (they are high in oxalates) or cold sores (they are high in arginine — though that can be countered with lysine). And peanuts are a prime cause of acute allergic reactions in susceptible individuals — so peanuts aren’t for everyone.

Peanuts are a wonderful food, with potential that goes well beyond peanut butter sandwiches, salted nuts at the ball game, and sprinkles on a sundae. And they are yummy, to boot. Here’s another way to incorporate the incomparable taste of peanuts into your culinary repertoire.

This recipe is from the Côte d’Ivoire in West Africa. It was on the West African coast that the peanut first reached Africa, carried by Portuguese slavers who brought it from South America. Hence, it is in this region of Africa that peanuts feature most prominently in the local cuisine. Enjoy.

Chicken à la N’Gatietro

1 3-4 pound chicken, cut up (or 3+ lb. chicken pieces of your choice)

2 Tbs. vegetable oil

2 shallots, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

2 large tomatoes, diced

2 tsp. tomato paste

4 cups water

1 cup natural peanut butter, creamy style

½ tsp. crushed red pepper (or to taste)

1 bay leaf

½ tsp. salt (more if unsalted peanut butter is used)

Heat oil in a large, deep frying pan or Dutch oven and brown chicken pieces on all sides. Add the shallots, onion, tomato, and tomato paste and cook for 5 minutes. Add 3½ cups water and bring to the boil. Reduce heat, cover, and cook over low heat for 10 minutes. While chicken simmers, add the final ½ cup water to the peanut butter, a little at a time, stirring to combine. Add the thinned peanut butter to the pot, along with the red pepper, bay leaf, and salt, and stir into the liquid. Cover and let simmer for 35 minutes. Taste for seasoning, and add salt to taste. Serve over rice.

Serves 4.


If you wish, you may skim excess oil/fat off the top of the stew when cooking is done.

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