Coffee-Nut Chicken

October 14, 2011 § 2 Comments

J: Happy sort-of birthday to us!  This is Nombudsman’s 100th post, and while we’ve been around for a little over a year already, we thought that #100 was a bigger milestone to celebrate.  I’m so excited that we’ve been around for this long, and I know that we’ve gotten a lot better at food photography, food writing, and of course food-making since we started — but we still have a long way to go, so thank you for reading this far, and I hope you’ll stay with us for the ride through the next 100 posts.

tastes better than it looks, we swear

To celebrate post #100, we decided on this recipe, which I found over on Omnomicon before Nombudsman was even created.  It has such a long list of ingredients that I was a little intimidated by it at first, and so kept putting it off in favor of other less-scary meals.  But it continued to look so delicious to me that when Erik and I started trying to coordinate a dinner party, I already knew that this was what I wanted to make.  And so finally, make it we did!  Because it was for a dinner party, we had guests (yay friends!), so we were a little slipshod on pictures, but I think we did all right for ourselves.

friends! and wine!

As an aside, when we were shopping for veggies to go along with the chicken, we came across these delicate little things called fairytale eggplants.  They are probably the most adorable vegetable I have ever seen — all purple and tiny and pretty.  Obviously, we had to use them, and if you can find them, you should use them too.

The ingredients here are stratified, for ease of reading and organizing yourself, into 3 sections based on whether they are part of the spice mixture, the coffee-nut puree, or are other associated ingredients. This is a long list, so bear with us.

Ingredients (recipe from Omnomicon, previously adapted from Paul Prudhomme):

Spice mixture
2 Tbsp brown sugar
4 tsp chili powder (or half each ancho and chipotle powder)
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp onion powder
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp ground cloves (or less—Erik hates cloves so we went with 1/4 tsp)

Coffee-nut puree
1/2 C. sunflower seeds
2 C. chopped pecans
2 Tbsp poppy seeds
2 Tbsp sesame seeds
1 C. chicken stock or broth
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
3 Tbsp instant coffee (or, as we did, about 2 Tbsp Starbucks Via dark roast)
1 tsp ground chicory (optional: we couldn’t find any and it turned out ok!)

Everything else!
6 chicken thighs (or about 1 to 1.5 lbs chicken of your choice)
2 Tbsp canola or other high-heat oil (olive oil will burn)
1 onion, chopped
1 C. chicken stock or broth
Pasta of your choice (we used 1 box couscous)
Some vegetables (suggestion: asparagus, fairytale eggplants, garlic)

It is really useful here to get out all of your spices and other various and sundry nuts, seeds, etc. before you even start.  Group them together so you know exactly where to go to find what you need when you need it.

getting the spices together

Once you’re all organized (a little OCD goes a long way!), mix together all the ingredients in the “spice mixture” category.  Use about 2 tbsp to rub into the chicken — I put my chicken in a bowl, dumped 2 tbsp of the mixture on top of it, and smushed around with my hands until everything looked sufficiently covered in spices.  Feel free to add a little more if you think your chicken isn’t getting fully covered.

Set the chicken aside (preferably in the fridge) until you need it, and prep all of your other ingredients.

vegetables standing by (most are optional)

Toast your sunflower seeds in a dry skillet, then transfer to a medium bowl and toast your pecans — and when they are done, add them to the bowl, toast your sesame and poppy seeds together, and finally add those so that you have a lovely bowl of seeds and nuts… basically bird food (for very lucky birds).

after roasting, before pureeing

Puree your bird food and all of the other ingredients in the “coffee-nut puree” section together.  This smells legitimately amazing, even though it looks a little wonky.  Also, we used a blender for this, which was a terrible decision.  Our blender just did not want to mush up all of these delicious things, no matter how much we cajoled.  If you can use a food processor or immersion blender instead, do it!

Now I’m going to hand things over to Erik to walk you through the cooking…

E: So, to pick up where Joanna left off, most of the prep work is done and we are ready to cook things! The chicken has been sitting with the rub on it, so it is ready to go. Heat the canola oil in a skillet until it flows freely (you want this fairly hot) and sear the chicken for 2 minutes or so per side. I went a little lower on the heat and longer on the time to spare my nonstick pan, but if you want to do this in an uncoated pan be prepared to get it quite hot (just below the oil’s smoke point) so the chicken doesn’t stick.

searing the chicken

Once you’ve seared the chicken, remove it and set it aside. In the same pan, add a little more oil if necessary and sautée the onions for a few minutes with 1 tablespoon of the spice mixture. Lower the heat to medium so you don’t nuke the onions. Once they are cooked add 1 cup of stock and scrape any browned bits off the pan and into the mixture.


Add 1 cup of stock and bring to a boil. While the mixture is heating, lay out your asparagus (if you are using it) onto a sheet pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.

[J: Side note — Colleen, one of the above-pictured friends, stepped in and seasoned our asparagus to perfection!]

Start your oven heating up to 350F.

roast away

Now, your stock should be boiling. (Speaking of boiling, at this point you should get some water heating up for pasta if you don’t have some going already. If you are making couscous, just follow the directions on the package for how much water to heat.) Add the rest of the spice mixture, all of the nut puree, and the chicken you set aside, to the pan with the onions and stock.

mmmmmm . . . ??

Cook this delicious brown goodness for about 25 minutes, (or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 160F, according to the recipe—we didn’t measure ours). At t-minus 15 minutes or so, put the asparagus (if you are using it) into the oven to roast, turning once about halfway through. These probably need 15-20 minutes to cook, depending on the doneness you want.

At about t-minus 7-10 minutes, start your pasta. This way it’ll be ready just about when everything else will. If using couscous, just make sure the water is heated to boiling or almost-boiling, then take it off the heat, add the couscous, cover, and wait.

At t-minus 5 minutes, heat up some olive oil in a small frying pan and saute the quartered eggplants (if you are using them) for about 3 minutes. Add the optional minced garlic, and saute for another 2 minutes or so. The eggplants are tiny and cook quite quickly, so 5 minutes total should just about do it. Sprinkle with some salt and pepper.

this is actually really wonderfully tasty, and those eggplants are really cute

Serve the coffee-nut chicken puree on top of your pasta, with your vegetables on the side. Enjoy the dish’s warm and complex flavors, and try to avoid thinking about cleaning up the kitchen for as long as possible.


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