They like it SPICY there… Côte d’Ivoire. This is one spicy country, proud of its chili tolerance! This kedjenou chicken stew is cooked “undisturbed” low and slow in its own juices along with plenty of vegetables, some hot peppers, the goodness of thyme and the smokiness of paprika. End result? Saucy… Bold… Sharp! Lip smacking, delicious chicken with plenty of stew to slurp along with a big bowl of rice or attiéké (their cous cous like staple side dish). Keep a glass of water nearby if trying the local chili level. All that spiciness, ahmm, it’s worth it. For rest, don’t miss out on this great chicken stew. Just adjust the chili level to your liking and get these African flavors going in your very own kitchen.
What is Kedjenou?
Kedjenou, pronounced as (KED-gen-ooh), is the flagship dish of Côte d’Ivoire, aka the Ivory Coast in English. The Ivory Coast is considered the cultural hub of West Africa. This place is home to around 60 ethnic groups, each with their own dialects and customs, as well as their own food legacies based on whatever they had available on land or by coast. The Ivoirian food is known for slow cooked stews which are fiery and saucy.
They say the word “Kedjenou” comes from the Baoulé ethnic group, and in their language it means “to move or shake”. So Kedjenou is meat cooked and braised in a sealed pot, traditionally a clay terracotta pot called a “canari”. The clay pot remains closed throughout the cooking so all the flavors remain intact, and meat and vegetables are cooked in their own steam and juices. Little or no other liquid is usually added and that helps build concentrated flavors. The canari is shaken from time to time to prevent the food from burning and sticking to the bottom. This cooking technique is very similar to North African tajine style.
Kedjenou can be made with variety of meats like chicken, pork, beef and even seafood. But Kedjenou chicken, or Kedjenou de Poulet, is more popular and you will certainly find it on the menus of their maquis, small open air restaurants unique to Côte d’Ivoire. Every family has their special take on this favorite stew. What remains constant is the hotness that they get from those cute little hot peppers.
I know the name is a little peculiar, but not its ingredients. They are the very same we use in our every day life, and this can be very easily made in a western kitchen with the help of our dutch ovens. This can be made on stove top, in your oven, or even your slow cooker. How? I WILL TELL YOU ALL…
This is what you need
- Chicken – They use whole chicken cut into pieces with skin on. You can make it with any cut. We like our bone-in thighs or drumsticks, or even wings for this stew. We like it skinless, as we are not fans of stewed skin.
- Vegetables – Onion, green onions, tomatoes, bell peppers (we are using green, yellow and red) and eggplant. These create the base for the stew.
- Aromatics – Ginger and garlic.
- Hot peppers – We are using habanero, but any other hot peppers would do, like scotch bonnet. Don’t get carried away by how cute they look, they are HOT BOMBS!
- Thyme – Fresh is great, but you can use dried.
- Smoked paprika – This really gives a distinctive flavor.
- Bay leaves
- Salt and fresh cracked pepper
- Chicken bouillon cube
How to cook this stew on stove top
This recipe is extremely easy and results in amazing flavors. You are going to love it. You will need a deep and wide dutch oven with a lid to create the canari effect.
Chop the vegetables, except the eggplant, and marinate the chicken with the vegetables along with ginger, garlic, salt, pepper, smoked paprika, thyme, bay leaf and whole hot peppers. We like to marinate it at least a couple of hours. Saying this, it still comes out great if you don’t have time. We like to add in the chopped eggplant when we actually start cooking, as cut eggplant oxidizes when exposed to air.
When ready to cook, you are simply going to layer the veggies and chicken and cook it undisturbed. That’s actually the difficult part for me, I am so used to handling and giving constant attention when cooking. So keeping patient and not to peaking is quite a test for me.
Anyways, in your dutch oven start by spreading half of the chopped veggies (yes, chop those eggplants now and mix in with the rest of the veggies). You noticed no oil here. Then place your chicken pieces on top of the vegetable layer. I did sprinkle a little oil on top if the chicken, but this is optional.
Throw in your hot peppers. We are using 3 whole habanero peppers, without chopping. This won’t create a hot stew, as they are intact. Add bay leaves, some extra thyme sprigs, salt and pepper. Crumble bouillon cube on top. Then layer on the rest of the vegetables. That’s it.
Close the lid and cook it undisturbed for next hour or so. For the first 15 minutes, put it on medium to high heat. Shake it and reduce the heat to medium low heat and let it braise in its own juices. The vegetables and chicken will create a lot of liquid, that helps chicken to stay moist and tender. Shake every 15 minutes or so gently, as there will be liquid there in the pot later, without opening the lid. Check after one hour if the chicken is fall off the bone tender. If not, cook for a few more minutes.
When the stew is ready, it’s time to set the hotness level. I like to prick all of the habaneros open, and they are like hot bombs exploding in my stew. But I like spicy. If you are heat sensitive, you can just prick one at a time to slowly adjust the hotness to your liking, or remove them altogether.
You can bake this in your oven too
After layering your chicken and vegetables, just put the dutch oven in a preheated oven at 350°F for an hour, or until chicken is fall off the bone. Shake the pot once or twice without opening the lid.
I told you you can use your crock pot, right?
Dump everything in your slow cooker and cook 3 hours on high or 5-6 hours on low and forget it till it’s done.
Frequently Asked Questions
Ivoirians love their stew with a side of attiéké, which is a cous cous like dish made from fermented and grated cassava or yucca root. It is one staple that goes with anything in Côte d’Ivoire. If you want a super authentic experience, you can find it some African specialty grocery stores. Otherwise, it goes great with rice. That worked for us. 🙂
You can try the same recipe for other meats, though the cooking time will vary. Sometimes fish or shell fish is added along with the meats.
Some people first fry the chicken in a little oil to get the brown color to add extra flavor. Other vegetables that commonly find their way into this pot are carrots, potatoes and okra.
Oh boy…yum. IT’S A STEW! It ages beautifully and can be refrigerated and devoured for the next 2-3 days. It freezes well for 3-4 months in an air tight container.
Well guys, I am not sure how many of us will have the opportunity to explore the West African coast and their wonderful foods. I wish you all plenty of travels, but in the mean time how about making some food journeys right in our very homes? Give this dish from the other side of the Atlantic a try. Variety is spice of life! Get this spicy one into your life… 🙂
Kedjenou Chicken, on my Gypsy Plate… enjoy!
- 4-5 chicken thighs
- 2 medium onion
- 3 medium bell peppers (I used red, green and yellow)
- 1 small eggplant
- 4 medium tomatoes
- 4 scallions
- 1.5 Tbsp chopped ginger
- 1.5 Tbsp chopped garlic
- 2 bay leaves
- 8-10 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 2-3 hot peppers (I am using habanero)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cube chicken bouillon
- Chop all vegetables except eggplant. Finely dice garlic and ginger. Leave hot peppers whole. Remove skin from chicken, if desired. In large bowl or dish, combine these ingredients, along with salt, pepper, paprika, thyme and bay leaves. If time allows, marinate at least two hours.
- Remove chicken, hot peppers and bay leaves and set aside. Chop eggplant and mix into remaining vegetable mixture. Add half of this mixture into a large dutch oven (we are using 7 quart). Next, layer on chicken, followed by bay leaves and hot peppers. Add a few more sprigs of thyme and a bit more salt and pepper. Crumble bouillon cube and sprinkle on top. Finish your layering by adding the remaining vegetables on top.
- Place lid on pot. Place on stove set to medium hot heat and cook for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to medium low and cook and additional 45 minutes. During this time, shake the pot occasionally, but do not remove the lid. After the full hour, check your chicken for doneness. It should be fall off the bone tender. If not, add several minutes.
- Optional: Depending on your heat tolerance, you can make this dish very spicy by piercing the peppers and mixing them into the stew. I recommend first tasting, then piercing only one pepper at a time, if desired. You can always add more, but you can't remove.
Nutrition InformationYield 4 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 483Total Fat 24gSaturated Fat 7gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 16gCholesterol 208mgSodium 493mgCarbohydrates 31gFiber 7gSugar 13gProtein 43g
Nutrition information calculated by Nutritionix.
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