Friday, July 02, 2010

Lebanese Chicken Stewed with Okra

I happen to love okra, though I know many people do not. Here in the deep south, my love of okra does not cause people to ask me if I'm crazy. Okra is a player in the south.

When I first moved to California, in April 1980, I was newly married. We moved there for Jerry's job, and I found it difficult to find an HR position comparable to the one I left behind in Boston, so I was unemployed for about six months. During that six months, I really explored the farmer's markets and ethnic markets in South Bay area. I also began learning to cook Lebanese food under the tutelage of some kind women at our church, particularly Marge Hanna. My mother-in-law was a fantastic cook, and she made the most delicious bamiyeh (okra) ever, so when I found okra for sale, I bought two pounds - at $2.50 per pound! It was outrageously expensive, but I knew that I would be able to cook something that Jerry really loved and missed from home. When he came home from work, his nose was twitching and he expectantly asked, "What's for dinner? It smells so good in here!" I was beaming from ear to ear. "Bamiyeh!" I replied. I knew he would be sooooo happy! Wrong! He lifted the cover of the pot and said, "That's bamiyeh!" as if it was a big surprise. "I hate bamiyeh! I am not eating that! I won't have bamiyeh in my house." And with that, he emptied the pot into the toilet and flushed. The toilet overflowed. I was perturbed, to put it mildly, because even if he didn't like it, I did, and I would have eaten that fragrant pot. I never again cooked bamiyeh while we were married.

This year, my CSA share includes okra every other box or so, which is good for an okra lover like me. Today I made it with chicken. In Arabic, this dish is known as Bamiyeh bil Djaj, or okra with chicken.

Lebanese Chicken stewed with Okra
1 large or 2 med onions, chopped
3 - 4 cloves garlic, minced
2 ea chicken wings, thighs & drumsticks
olive oil
1 heaping tsp mixed Arabic spices, apple pie spice or allspice
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp salt
1 bay leaf
1 tsp thyme
2 tsp chicken bouillion powder
2 14-oz cans diced tomatoes in juice
1 lb fresh okra, in 1 inch chunks

In a large, heavy, dutch oven, brown chicken pieces on all sides, set aside and wipe chicken fat out of pan, leaving just a thin film. Saute onions in dutch oven, adding up to 2 Tbs olive oil to keep them from sticking. When translucent, add garlic and spices and saute for a minute to release the aromas and essential oils. Add the tomatoes, bouillion powder, okra, and 1 tomato can of water (can use part white wine or lemon juice as well). Stir well and bring to a simmer. Tuck the chicken pieces into the pot, making sure that they are fully immersed. Bring to slow simmer, cover tightly, and let cook for about 45 minutes until the chicken is falling off the bone and okra is very tender. Serve over rice, couscous or polenta, or just eat it with a spoon!

This was so delicious! One change I would make would be to use chicken with the skin on to help it keep its shape because the thighs shredded a bit in the pan. Other than that, it was perfection!

1 comment:

Cooking contests said...

As a southern girl, I completely understand your love of okra. Never seen it cooked this way before - it looks like it would smell and taste incredible. I'll have to try it out soon. Thanks for sharing!!