Mé Lon Togo’s Chicken and Peanut StewPhoto Credit : Adam Detour | Food Styling: Catrine Kelty | Prop Styling: Darcy Hammer/Anchor Artists
Jordan Benissan moved to Maine in the 1990s to take a job as a music instructor at Colby College. A master of polyrhythmic drumming, he brought the musical traditions of his home country of Togo in West Africa to the small town of Waterville. Missing the flavors of home, he began hosting dinner parties, which were so successful that he eventually opened a restaurant, Mé Lon Togo, now located in Rockland. He sees all of his work as a form of cultural exchange and education, whether in an auditorium or around a table. This chicken and peanut stew is a great example, the perfect warming meal for the early days of spring.
Watch for Mé Lon Togo on an upcoming season 7 episode of Weekends with Yankee
8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 whole bulb of garlic, peeled and minced
1/4 cup minced ginger
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1-3 teaspoons cayenne pepper, depending on your taste for heat
1/2 cup plus 11/2 cups water
1 large tomato, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 cups freshly ground peanut butter
Cilantro leaves and chopped peanuts, for garnish
In a Dutch oven, combine chicken thighs, onion, garlic, ginger, salt, fennel seeds, and cayenne pepper. Make sure all thighs are evenly coated with spices and aromatics. Cover the pot, place on stove, and turn the heat to high. Once the mixture begins to steam, reduce the heat to medium-low, add 1/2 cup water, and stir. Cover and cook until very tender, about 40 minutes.
Turn off heat. Remove the thighs from the pot and arrange, skin side up, on a baking sheet. Transfer the sheet to the top rack of the oven and broil on high until the skin crisps and turns golden brown. Watch the chicken constantly, because this happens quickly. Once the chicken turns golden brown on the top, remove from the oven and set aside.
Set the Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the chopped tomato and the tomato paste. Stir and bring to a boil until the tomato is dissolved, about 10 minutes. Add remaining 1 1/2 cups water and the peanut butter. Cook, stirring, until the sauce becomes creamy. Add chicken thighs back to the pot, submerging halfway. Simmer on low for 10 minutes. Add more water if needed. Serve in bowls, garnished with cilantro and peanuts.