“Berbere” literally translates to “hot” in Amharic. It is a staple ingredient in Ethiopian cooking, and one of its most well-known uses is in a stewed chicken dish called doro wat. It is a stick-to-your-bones dish, filled with chunks of deeply caramelized onions, chicken so tender it falls off the bone, creamy hard-boiled eggs floating about, and a spicy berbere sauce that melts into a finger-licking gravy during the nearly two hours of cooking time—ideal for sopping up with sour injera flat bread.
Here, I used the spices of doro wat as inspiration for a far simpler and quicker meal. Sometimes I swap out some chicken for butternut squash or sweet potatoes, a nice addition to mellow the heat of the berbere. Other times I go all the way and add in a few cups of tomatoes and red wine, and allow the dish to simmer for even longer, adding the hard-boiled eggs at the very end. But no matter how this dish is prepared—in its simple version as written below, or in its full-fledged doro wat expression—the spices of berbere lift the mundane chicken thighs to a level of absolute bliss.
- Melt the butter in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onions and sauté until deeply caramelized for about 20 minutes. Then add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 5 minutes.
- Add the berbere and chicken stock and stir to incorporate. Season the chicken with salt and add to the pan. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, until the chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes.
- Uncover the skillet and raise the heat to medium-high. Cook until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Serve with rice, couscous, or injera.
Recipe by Eve Turow