Friday, February 22, 2013
Chickpea and Chicken Stew for Purim
A boisterous weekend is promised with the arrival of Purim! Purim is a time of merriment, the holiday celebrating Queen Esther and Mordecai’s victory of saving the Jews of Persia from the wicked Haman. Children and adults alike dress in costumes and festivities abound.
While hamentaschen are a popular cookie to bake for Purim (when I was cooking at Hillel UW I was baking hundreds of hamentaschen at this time each year!), chickpeas are also traditional to eat. According to the Purim story, while Queen Esther lived in the court of King Ahasuerus, she ate mostly legumes so that she could maintain a kosher diet. For this reason, it is customary to eat chickpeas on Purim. As a simple snack, chickpeas are often warmed and sprinkled with salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper.
Over the past fifteen years or so, I’ve been making a chickpea and chicken stew that has become a favorite in our family. In the spirit of Purim, I include a blend of Persian-inspired spices with cinnamon, saffron and cardamom.
I begin by soaking dried chickpeas the night before I want to make the stew. Once this step is done, though, the stew is quick to prepare. The chickpeas cook along with the chicken, making it a one-pot meal (and even a possible weeknight dinner). After dicing a couple of onions and sautéing them in olive oil, I stir in the spices and chicken, followed by the soaked chickpeas, some chicken broth and a squeeze of lime. At this point, you can leave the stew to simmer while you chop a salad, steam some rice (or my new favorite, cauliflower “rice”) and open a bottle of wine.
The fragrant spices mingle together as the stew bubbles, taking you to far-away lands and filling your house with a delicious aroma. The chicken is tender and velvety, the chickpeas add a soft pop of texture and the onions melt into a luscious sauce. A bowl of stew energizes us for the Purim carnivals and hamentaschen eating yet to come. Chag Purim Sameach (Happy Purim)!
Chickpea and Chicken Stew
1 cup dried chickpeas
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large onions, diced
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
A pinch of saffron threads
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 3-4 pound organic chicken, cut into 6 serving pieces
3 cups organic chicken broth
Juice of 1 lime
1 cup Italian parsley, chopped
Steamed rice for serving
The night before you plan to make this stew, cover the chickpeas in a bowl with water and let soak overnight.
In a large Dutch oven or heavy soup pot (I use a 5 quart size), heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until soft, about 7-8 minutes, stirring a few times. Add the cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, saffron, salt and pepper and after a stir let cook for a minute. Add the chicken pieces and allow the chicken to cook and brown for a few minutes. Drain the chickpeas and stir them in. Pour in the chicken broth and lime juice and gently stir to mix. The chickpeas should be covered but the chicken may not be completely submerged – this is ok.
Bring the stew to a boil, partially cover the pot and lower the heat. Let simmer for about 45-50 minutes, until the chickpeas are soft and the chicken is tender. The stew can be prepared ahead and rewarmed before serving. Just before eating, stir in the chopped parsley and taste for additional salt and pepper. Serve with bowls of steamed rice.