Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Week 8 - Spice Blends

There were so many possibilities for the spice blends theme. Ras el hanout? Curry powder? Pipelchuma? I couldn't decide. Technically I think you were supposed to make the spice blend yourself, but since I'm not officially participating anyway, I planned to just use one of the spice blends I already had in the pantry. Why make a new one when I already had so many spice blends sitting unused in the cabinet? That would just be wasteful. Once the spice blends week rolled around, I saw that someone else made Ethiopian food, and I knew I had to do the same. We had purchased a gigantic bag of berbere when we were in San Diego, and that would be perfect for the challenge.

Doro Wat

I could have gone with a vegetarian dish, but I decided to start with doro wat. We had had a great version of this in DC last year (at a place that is now sadly closed and not because of lack of quality or popularity), and while I knew I could never achieve that level of greatness on my first attempt (or maybe even any attempt), I hoped to at least come up with something decent. After some searching, I found a recipe on Daring Gourmet that seemed like it would work and went with that.

The ingredients for my version of doro wat were:

- 2 large yellow onions, finely minced in food processor (about 3-3.5 cups) ($1)
- 6 tbsp butter, divided ($0.60)
- 2 tbsp olive oil ($0.40)
- 6 garlic cloves, minced, plus more to taste ($0.20)
- 1 tbsp ginger paste, plus more to taste ($0.25)
- 1/4 cup berbere ($2.75)
- 3 large boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes ($4.20)
- juice of 2 lemons ($0.60)
- 1 cup chicken stock ($0.30)
- 1/2 cup white wine mixed with 1 tsp honey ($1)
(original recipe called for Tej, but could not find anywhere nearby so used a South African Chardonnay)
- 4 eggs ($0.40)
- rice (or some other side to eat with the doro wat) ($1)

The chicken and rice together cost about $12.70, which breaks the $10 goal I usually set, but considering it had more meat than we usually make in one meal, wine that wasn't leftover from our wedding, and a lot of spices, that wasn't entirely unexpected. That price is probably only a few dollars less than some of the Ethiopian restaurants, but in quantity, it probably made multiple times more than you would get there.

On the day that I was going to make doro wat, I knew it was going to take hours, so I made sure I didn't have to go out at all that afternoon. I stuck decently close to the original recipe since I didn't want to screw it up, but made some adaptations here and there. The steps were:

1. Finely mince the onions in a food processor. [It was basically a puree by the time it was done, and I was a bit of a mess, holding my ears since our food processor was ridiculously loud, louder than I thought, and tears streaming down my face from the onion chopping.]

2. Melt 2 tbsp of butter in a Dutch oven and then add 2 tbsp of olive oil. Swirl together as you cover the surface with oil and butter.

3. Add onions to the Dutch oven. Cook covered over low heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Add garlic and ginger paste and 1 tbsp butter to the onion mixture. Cook covered over low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Add berbere and 2 tbsp butter to the mixture. Stir well. Cook covered over low heat for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

6. Put chicken cubes in bowl with lemon juice at room temperature and marinate for 30 minutes.

After the 30 minutes was up, that's when the chicken (post-marinating) was supposed to be added, but I had been thawing frozen chicken under running water in the sink and it didn't thaw as quickly as I had planned. I probably ended up delaying for 15-20 minutes, so the berbere mixture cooked longer. I added another tbsp of butter since the mixture was sticking to the bottom and turning black, and I was worried it was going to burn. It didn't do much. Every time I went to check on the mixture, it was sticking again, so I started adding water, about 1/4 cup at a time every time I stirred. By the time the chicken was ready to be added, I had probably added a cup of water just to keep the berbere mixture from sticking and burning.

7. Taste berbere mixture before adding chicken and adjust flavors if needed. [I added more garlic and ginger paste at this point, because I felt like the mixture had a good amount of heat but could use a little more flavor.]

8. Add to the mixture the chicken cubes, chicken stock, wine and honey mixture. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low again. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

9. While mixture is simmering, hard boil 4 eggs and peel when ready. Pierce eggs with fork in multiple places, about 1/4 inch deep.

[At this point, we also started making rice, because we needed something starchy to eat with dinner and there was no way I was also going to be able to pull off injera on the same night.]

10. After the 45 minutes are up, add the pierced eggs to the chicken. Cover and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes.

11. Remove lid from Dutch oven and simmer uncovered until doro wat reaches desired thickness. [Probably because of the water I had to add earlier in the process, it was thinner than I wanted when it was done. We cooked it for another 5-10 minutes to thicken it up. A splatter screen over the pot was quite necessary.]

12. Remove from heat, adjust seasonings if needed (didn't do anything here), and serve over rice (or injera or whatever else).

This doro wat came out pretty well for my first time making it. Was it as good as our favorite one from DC? Not a chance. There was just something in the depth and nuance of those flavors that was missing here. Could be because I didn't actually use Ethiopian honey wine or because I didn't have Ethiopian butter or because they used other secret stuff or because they've been doing this for their entire lives and I will never be able to replicate that experience. But I was pretty happy with it. It reminded me more in flavor of some of the stuff we got at an Ethiopian fast casual place in the DC area, and if we could get that level out of our kitchen, that would be pretty satisfying. From start to finish, the entire process took 5 hours. That's a long time to make a dish for dinner, but it tasted really good. I think next time I'll try the berbere with lentils.

Gomen Wat

My original plan for dinner was just to make doro wat, but the more I thought about it, the more I knew I had to add something else. Otherwise, the only vegetables we'd be eating at dinner would be onions and that wasn't enough. So about an hour or two before I started making doro wat, I looked online for recipes for Ethiopian greens and found one on Allrecipes for gomen wat. That would be easy enough to adapt to what I had at home (since I couldn't go out to a store if I wanted to with the doro wat plan for the rest of the day). That meant spinach instead of collard greens and forgetting about the green pepper.

The ingredients for our version of gomen wat were:

- 1 bag of frozen chopped spinach ($1.49)
- olive oil for sautéing ($0.20)
- 1 small onion, chopped ($0.35)
- a couple spoonfuls of minced garlic ($0.20)
- lemon juice, about 1 tbsp ($0.10)
- salt ($0.02)
- ground turmeric ($0.10)
- paprika ($0.05)
- ground allspice ($0.10)
- ginger paste ($0.15)

I didn't measure any of the spices at the end of that list but just added what seemed about right, maybe a tsp or two, figuring I could adjust for taste later. The cost was about $2.76 for the entire dish, which is pretty great.

The process for making gomen wat was pretty easy. The steps were:

1. Heat olive oil in skillet and add onions. Once softened, add garlic.
2. After cooking garlic for about a minute, add frozen spinach. Cover and cook for a few minutes until spinach is almost done.
3. Add all other ingredients, adjust seasonings to taste, and cook until happy with the taste.

Super simple. Not exactly what we get for greens when we go out for Ethiopian food since it seems like they use collards, but this recipe would absolutely work for us for an everyday side dish. I really liked the combination of spices and would definitely make this again. It was nice to offset the strong, bold flavors of doro wat with these milder flavors. It was a good balance. What a tasty dinner experiment.

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