Jollof rice (well, not really, but kind of)

I am continuing my West African kick with jollof rice, the national dish of a variety of West African countries. I don’t feel qualified to say much else about it; I have no idea if my version was authentic (and if it was originally, it wasn’t after I messed with it); etc. etc. But it is yummy and only gets better as time goes on. I wasn’t thrilled with it on Sunday, but by Tuesday it was really good, all melded together, flavor synthesis, blah blah. I am also so impressed by how the chicken came out that I’m willing to overlook all the other deficiencies, such as excessive tomato flavor such that all the other flavors are sort of lost and… well that pretty much sums it up. I browned, braised, and microwaved the chicken at various points over the last few days, and it’s still moist and yummy and tender and non-dry. And it tastes good. I think this is a function of using thighs and not cutting all the fat off? Or it’s because I used relatively happy chickens? (Let’s just say their lives probably had their ups and downs, but things could have been worse.)

Anyway. I messed up most of this recipe and barely took pictures because I was Skyping the whole time, and it was very stressful going back and forth from the chickeny cutting board to the computer to the recipe etc., and I spent a lot of time staring at the recipe while my sisters wondered what I was doing because it just looked like I was staring at them close-up and creepily. But I wasn’t. (Oh, and there was this one moment where I was getting an incoming Skype call and I got extremely stressed and clicked “accept,” but then I realized I hadn’t washed my hands after cutting some chicken, so I proceeded to spray my computer, mouse, and basically everything nearby with all-purpose kitchen cleaner. Ew. Ugh.)

This is basically rice, chicken, vegetables, and a spicy tomato concoction. I streamlined the recipe ridiculously, basically just putting everything in a pot together and cooking it for a while. I think I would try to do this in a less haphazard way next time; as I said, a lot of the flavors didn’t show up, and I would think some of that is because I just put everything in a pot together. But I don’t know.

Also, I don’t usually succeed at cooking rice on the stove, but I just put the heat as low as it would go, stirred occasionally (which is actually illegal in rice-making, so shhh), and then ignored the small burnt layer on the bottom.

This post is completely incoherent. You probably have no idea what’s even in the food. Oh well. You can just read the recipe. I’m hungry. Also, this is yummy. I think I forgot to say that.

Basically, this is after I had added all the stuff, but before it had finished cooking. See below.

Jollof rice
Adapted from BetumiBlog

*I got about four servings out of this (halved from the original recipe)—actually I divided it into five, but they’re all too small.

a few tbsp peanut/vegetable oil
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp peeled, grated ginger (about a half-inch knob or thereabouts)
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or 1 1/2 lb chicken with the bone, but I can’t tell you what to do with such a thing)
2-3 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp curry powder (I just sprinkled in some cumin)
1/4 tsp dried thyme
2 c combination water + broth (chicken or vegetable)
1 c pureed tomatoes (can’t remember exactly, but this is no more than a 14-oz can, and possibly less)
1 c rice (I used brown; it’s much easier to not overcook brown rice)
~2 c vegetables, such as diced carrots, green peas, etc.—I used two carrots and some unknown amount of frozen peas, adding up to about a cup, but I would DEFINITELY use way more next time
1 bay leaf

Prepare all ingredients—dice the onion; mince the garlic; peel your ginger (with a spoon is easiest) and grate it (using the small holes or a microplane; or just buy pre-grated ginger, which is the best thing ever, but I ran out). I froze my chicken before slicing it because I thought that would make it easier, and indeed, it was quite easy. I removed some of the fat, but didn’t make a big deal out of it because it was both gross and boring.

Heat the oil; add the onions and cook a few minutes, until translucent. Add the ginger and garlic. Cook until fragrant (whatever). Add the chicken; brown it on all sides. (I actually didn’t do this; I just cooked it a bit, but it will taste better if you brown it.) Add the tomato paste, cayenne pepper, curry/other spices, thyme, broth/water, and tomatoes. Stir to combine. Add the rice. Add the vegetables. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to as low as it will go and cover. I know from firsthand experience that you won’t destroy it if you occasionally stir it and try to scrape the bottom to prevent it from burning.

Cook until the rice is done through, about half an hour; all the liquid will not be absorbed. Salt and pepper to taste. Don’t fear the salt. Add a lot.

Keeps very well in the fridge, and seems to improve.

(You will notice, if you read the original recipe, that I ignored every single instruction. I actually don’t even know if what I wrote above is exactly what I did. I just kind of put things in the pot.)

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