Yes Chef...Samuelsson's the name

I have just come to the end of a very good book. It was a bittersweet read. During the last month, it has been a good companion, taking me to the faraway land of Ethiopia, toing and froing between Sweden, Switzerland, New York and intermittently returning to Ethiopia. It expanded me in the most unexpected ways, providing me with knowledge of issues previously unknown to me. The book was Yes Chef, by Marcus Samuelsson, the pioneering chef. This is the story of a man who not only wanted to change the race dynamics in a kitchen but had an unstoppable desire to change the gender dynamics of professional kitchens tooMarcus Samuellson (Real name Kassahun Joar Tsegie), Ethiopian Swedish American celebrity chef, restaurateur and television personality. With twelve cookbooks under his belt, Samuellson is the acclaimed chef behind many restaurants worldwide, in North America, Canada, London the Bahamas, Sweden and other Scandinavian countries.His restaurant group, named after his signature restaurant Red Rooster in Haarlem New York, now comprises 11 different brands. I first became aware of Samuelssons work last year and immediately made one of his ground breaking dishes Red Snapper with Smoked Tomato and Fennel Broth

As a way of celebrating this moving book and heartfelt story of one man´s journey through life, I made a classic Ethiopian dish, Crispy Berbére chicken over Ethiopian lentils ( above ). Berbére is an Ethiopian spice mix made with a combination of spices grown in the region. Similar to curry but composed of less familiar spices.
However you use it, it will transport you to far way shores. Its Flavours are deep and exotic and warming, perfect for the onset of autumn / winter. I think a copy of this book along with some homemade Berbere Spice Mix would make a really nice Christmas present.
It starts with the spices. You can use pre-ground spices, but using whole seeds will intensify and deepen the flavors of the Berbere. I use a mix of both. You can purchase Berbere at select stores, but truthfully here in El al Gharb it’s a challenge to find. The good thing is, it’s easy enough to make, and it’s fun.
This recipe for Crispy Skinned Berbere Chicken with Ethiopian Lentils is hearty and flavoursome. 
The Berbere spice mix is rubbed all over the chicken thighs, and pan-seared in a skillet and placed in a hot oven to finish. The skin becomes crackly and crispy with flavor, while the meat remains tender and moist.  Over a bed of Ethiopian spiced Puy lentils, it’s filling, healthy, and deeply satisfying.

Berbére Chicken with Ethiopian Lentils

1 cup French Green (Puy), Black lentils, or Beluga Caviar lentils (do not use a split lentil)
3 cups water
2 cups diced onions
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 cup diced carrot
1 cup diced tomato
2–3 tablespoons Berbere Spice Mix (see below)
1 teaspoon flor de sal
2 tablespoon olive oil
Fresh Italian parsley for garnish

Berbére Chicken
6 chicken thighs (skin-on)
2–3 tablespoons Berbere Spice Mix
olive oil
Flor de sal

Berbére Spice Mix
3 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes, ground plus more for extra spicy
2 teaspoons cumin seeds or powdered cumin
1 teaspoon coriander seeds or powdered coriander
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds (shelled) or powdered cardamom
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon flor de sal
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds or powdered fenugreek
1 teaspoon black peppercorns or freshly ground peppercorn
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 F
Make the lentils: In a heavy bottomed pan, or casserole, saute diced onion, carrots, garlic and ginger in 2 tablespoons olive oil, until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add 2-3 tablespoons Berbére Spice mix and sauté 2-3 minutes. Add 1 cup lentils, 1 cup diced tomatoes, 1 teaspoon salt and 3 cups water, and bring to a boil, cover, turn heat to low and let cook until tender, about 30 minutes. Uncover and cook off any extra liquid.
Make the Chicken: Pat dry the chicken and salt all sides with salt and pepper and generously rub each piece with Berbere Spice Mix. The more, the spicier.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a heavy bottom skillet, on medium-high heat, place chicken skin side down and sear until it is crispy and golden, about 6- 8 minutes. Turn over, and turn heat down to medium, searing for 2-3 minutes. Place in a 400 F oven until internal temperature reaches 165F (10-15 minutes)
Serve over a bed of the Ethiopian lentils, and garnish with fresh Italian parsley.

Berbere Spice Mix:If using whole seeds, lightly toast them on the stovetop in a skillet for 2-3 minutes.

Grind them using a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle. Remember to crush or grind the chili flakes.


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