Saveur's West African peanut stew shito-ized

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West African peanut stew
This month's issue of Saveur features 150 Classic Recipes, from Thai laab and pasta primavera to bigos and butterscotch pudding. I executed the West African peanut stew from Jessica Harris, author of High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey From Africa to America, mostly because I was looking for something cool to do with a jar of West African shito made by Friend of the Food Chain Onur Usmen for a recent spicy condiment exchange. (Or, after my adventures with mirchi ka salan, maybe I just have peanuts on my mind.)

Shito is a Ghanaian hot pepper sauce usually made with some combination of tomatoes, onions, garlic, chiles, and most importantly, some kind of funky dried seafood, like shrimp or herring or both. I used to toss a couple spoonfuls of it with pasta for a quick dinner. You can find different brands (also sometimes known as "Liberian Fried Pepper") in African markets like Uptown's Old World Market (5129 N. Broadway) and La Fruteria in South Chicago (8909 S. Commercial).

Peanut stew ingredients

Saveur's recipe didn't call for shito , but it did point out that recipes vary all over West Africa. So I didn't use okra either, but I did sear off a bunch of chicken thighs; sauteed ginger, garlic, onions, and fresh cayenne peppers from the garden; added coriander, cumin, fenugreek, turmeric, cloves, tomato paste, and fresh San Marzanos and eggplants from the farmers' market with six cups of chicken stock and 3/4 cup of peanut butter—but not just any peanut butter. There's an outbreak of industrial-nut-butter-related salmonella going on, after all. I used the excellent peanut butter ground on the spot at Lehman's Orchard in Niles, Michigan (find it at Andy's Fruit Ranch), and I cooked it all slowly until the chicken shredded easily and did the okra's job of thickening the whole thing up. And I added the shito. Not only does it add a degree of heat, it deepens the flavor the way some other umami booster—like fish sauce or shio koji—might.

Here's the Saveur recipe.

Mike Sula writes about cooking every Monday.

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