feasting at home: Crispy Berbere Chicken with Ethiopian Lentils

November 9, 2012

Crispy Berbere Chicken with Ethiopian Lentils


I have come to the end of a very good book. It's always a little bittersweet. During the last month, it has been a good companion, taking me to far away lands of Ethiopia, stretching me in the most unexpected ways. It's called Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese. Beautifully crafted, it's a deeply felt story about love, loss, and forgiveness, interspersed with nuggets of wisdom.

As a way to celebrate this moving book, I am making one of our favorite Ethiopian dishes tonight,  called Crispy Berbere Chicken over Ethiopian Lentils.  Berbere is an Ethiopian spice mix, made with a combination of spices grown in the region.  It's similar to curry, in that it's a blend of spices, but different than curry, in that it is made with different spices.  My favorite way to use Berbere is to use it as a rub for chicken, lamb or tofu, and to flavor lentils or stews.  However you use it, it will transport you to foreign lands.  Flavors are deep and exotic and warming, perfect for the cold of fall and winter. 

The world turns on our every action, and our every omission, whether we know it or not.
 Cutting for Stone

I think a copy of this book along with some homemade Berbere Spice Mix (see recipe below) would make a really nice gift. It would be especially appropriate for people in the medical profession who like to cook. Just a thought...


It starts with the spices.  You can use pre-ground spices, but using whole seeds will intensify and deepen the flavors of the Berbere.  I use a mix of both. You can purchase Berbere at select stores, but truthfully where we live it's a challenge to find. In Spokane, it is available at the Kitchen Engine, in the Flour Mill. The good thing is, it's easy enough to make, and it's fun.

This recipe for Crispy Skinned Berbere Chicken with Ethiopian Lentils is hearty and flavorful.  The Berbere spice mix is rubbed all over the chicken thighs, and pan-seared in a skillet and placed in a hot oven to finish. The skin becomes crackly and crispy with flavor,  while the meat remains tender and moist. I often make this with whole roasted chickens as well, and both are so tasty. Over a bed of Ethiopian spiced lentils, it's filling, healthy and deeply satisfying.




Toast the seeds for a few minutes to bring out their flavor.




Use a mortar and pestle, or even a coffee grinder, to grind the seeds. 
Once the Berbere spice mix is done,  start on the lentils.



When the lentils are simmering, rub chicken thighs on all sides with kosher salt and Berbere Spice Mix.



Heat a skillet with oil on medium high heat and place thighs skin side down, searing until golden and crispy, about 6-8 minutes. Turn over and sear a few more minutes. Place in a hot oven until internal temp reaches 165F.  Serve over the Ethiopian Lentils and sprinkle with Italian parsley.




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Crispy Skinned Berbere Chicken with Ethiopian Lentils

serves 6

Ethiopian Spiced Lentils

1 Cup french green lentils
3 C water
2 cups diced onions
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 T  fresh ginger, minced
1 cup diced carrot
1 cup diced tomato
2-3 T Berbere Spice Mix...see below
1 tsp salt
2 T olive oil
Fresh Italian parsley


In a medium heavy bottom pot, or dutch oven, saute diced onion, carrots, garlic and ginger in 2 T olive oil, until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add 2-3 Tablespoons Berbere Spice mix and sauté 2-3 minutes. Add 1 cup french green lentils, 1 cup diced tomatoes, 1 tsp salt and 3 cups water, bring to a boil, cover, turn heat to low and let cook until al dente, about 30 minutes.

Make chicken....

Crispy Berbere Chicken Thighs

Preheat Oven to 450F
6 chicken thighs ( skin-on)
2-3 T Berbere Spice Mix
olive oil
Kosher Salt

Pat Dry Chicken
Salt all sides of chicken.
Generously rub each piece with Berbere Spice Mix.
Heat 1 T oil in a heavy bottom skillet, on medium high heat,  place chicken skin side down and sear until is crispy and golden, about 8 minutes. Turn over, and turn heat down to medium, searing for 2-3 minutes. Place in a 425 F oven until internal temperature reaches 165F ( 10-15 minutes)

Serve over a bed of Ethiopian lentils, and garnish with fresh Italian parsley.

Berbere Spice Mix

3 T sweet paprika
1 T red pepper flakes, ground plus more for extra spicy
2 tsp cumin seeds or powdered cumin
1 tsp coriander seed (or powder)
1 tsp cardamom powder or 1 tsp cardamom seeds (shell off)
1 tsp turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1 tsp fenugreek seeds (or powder)
1 tsp black peppercorns or freshly ground peppercorn
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

If using whole seeds, lightly toast them on the stove top in a skillet for 2-3 minutes.
Grind them using a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle. Remember to crush or grind the chili flakes.

print recipe

Crispy Berbere Chicken with Ethiopian Lentils
Ingredients
  • 6 Chicken Thighs, skin on, bone in.
  • 2 T Berbere Spice Mix
  • generous sprinkling kosher Salt
  • 1 T Olive oil
Instructions
425 F Oven

Pat Dry Chicken. Salt all sides of chicken.
Generously rub each piece with Berbere Spice Mix.
Heat 1 T oil in a heavy bottom skillet, on medium high heat, place chicken skin side down and sear until is crispy and golden, about 8 minutes. Turn over, and turn heat down to medium, searing for 2-3 minutes. Place in a 425 F oven until internal temperature reaches 165F ( 10-15 minutes)

Serve over a bed of Ethiopian lentils, and garnish with fresh Italian parsley.
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 6